Rwanda:Concludes Hepatitis campaign, and to lower costs of vaccinations

Rwanda’s Ministry of Health has concluded a campaign on prevention, access to testing, treatment and care of Hepatitis.

Concluding last Friday, the campaign was conducted in line with World Hepatitis Day (WHD) celebrations. According to local media, during the campaign, 250,000 people were expected to be screened for Hepatitis B and C while 400,000 (over 15 years old) would be freely vaccinated against Hepatitis B.

Dr Jean Damascene Makuza, the acting director of Viral Hepatitis and STI Unit at Rwanda Biomedical Centre, said the exercise will be implemented in districts that weren’t reached.

“We plan to reach all districts but we have so far covered 12 districts. Due to the presidential campaigns, the exercise has been postponed and the remaining 18 districts will be attended to later,” he told The New Times.

Dr Makuza said, about 210,000 people have so far been vaccinated while about 100,000 have been screened countrywide.

Discussing the Hepatitis prevalence in Rwanda, Makuza said that it was hard at the moment to determine whether the disease was on the rise or not.

Experts have been concerned that although the campaign offered screenings for a large number of people, it fell well short of reaching the national number.

Makuza added that the prevalence among the people above 15 years is between 3 and 4 per cent for both Hepatitis B and C.

Most vulnerable groups include medics, sex workers, and prisoners, among others.

There are also efforts by the government to reduce the cost of HBV vaccinations – which is still seen as unaffordable to many.

“During the campaign, we noticed that many people were willing to get tested and vaccinated as a result of increased sensitisation,” Makuza told The New Times.

“We are going to have negotiations with our donors and partners to cut the price from Rwf 8, 700 to at least Rwf2,000 or Rwf3,000.

“Ministries, private insurance companies and other partners are coming together to see how we can help in make such services more affordable,” he added.

According to Global Hepatitis Report 2017, an estimated 325 million people are living with chronic hepatitis infections (HBV or HCV) worldwide.

Viral hepatitis caused 1.34 million deaths in 2015, a number that is comparable to deaths caused by tuberculosis and higher than deaths caused by HIV.

A vaccine against hepatitis B has been available since 1982 but research is still ongoing to find vaccine for hepatitis C though it can be treated and cured.

By Africafrique and agencies

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