PANO – The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), on the occasion of the World Rabies Day, urged the Government of Viet Nam to further accelerate intersectoral collaboration in order to increase availability, accessibility, and affordability of vaccines in both animals and human; raise public awareness about the disease; and gain high-level “commitment into action” to end rabies.

According to the National Program on the Control and Elimination of Rabies, National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology (NIHE), as of today, a total of 57 people have died from rabies in 29 provinces in Viet Nam since the start of 2020. This is relatively higher compared with the figures this time last year and is worrisome as rabies has been reported from provinces where no cases were reported previously.

FAO and WHO advise communities to vaccinate to end rabies

Rabies is one of the oldest and most terrifying diseases. Once clinical symptoms appear, it is virtually 100% fatal. While effective vaccine is available, every year estimated 59,000 people from more than 150 countries, mainly from poor or vulnerable communities, succumb to rabies. Up to 40% of victims are children younger than 15 years. In Viet Nam, approximately 70-110 deaths are reported each year over the past 10 years.

There is no room for complacency or inaction. It is critical to invest in rabies elimination and accelerate strengthening both human and veterinary health systems to save preventable deaths.  FAO and WHO call for concrete actions in strengthening inter-sectoral coordination, increasing risk awareness, promoting dog vaccination and management, enhancing public trust on rabies vaccination for humans, and improving financial and human resources as Viet Nam continues its fight against rabies.

Ms Rana Flowers, FAO Representative, “We would like to urge the government, national and international partners to join our efforts to increase rabies vaccination coverage in dogs and end human deaths from rabies in Viet Nam. We have the good vaccines which can minimize the risk of dog-mediated rabies. By working together, we can stop rabies in dogs and save human lives.” the Representatives reiterated.

“While the fight against COVID-19 continues, our collective efforts to ensure essential public health services should not be interrupted, including the country’s rabies elimination programme,” Dr Kidong Park, WHO Representative in Viet Nam, called for the furthering of country investment in programmes for rabies prevention and elimination at all levels. “We need to push for appropriate policies and mechanisms to ensure the availability, accessibility and affordability of rabies vaccines both for dogs and humans,” he added.

In Viet Nam, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and Ministry of Health continue to implement the National Program on the Control and Elimination of Rabies which was approved by the Prime Minister in February 2017 and the Order 31/ CT-TTg dated July 6, 2017 of the Prime Minister on Strengthening Urgent Measures to Prevent Rabies. The two ministries, in collaboration with One Health partners, including FAO and WHO, have jointly advocate for the “commitment into action” of all levels of government in the prevention and control of rabies; to strengthen inter-sectoral collaboration, including health, agriculture, education and mass organizations; and to enhance public communication to improve dog management and vaccination, ensuring that people bitten by dogs are immediately vaccinated, and elimination of rabies in Viet Nam by 2030.

Reported by Thuy Hang-Thu Nguyen