Momentum builds for rabies control across India as thousands vaccinated in Mumbai

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India vaccination drive mumbai

In a large-scale campaign, which ran from Monday 26 February to Friday 1 March, over 26,000 dogs were vaccinate against rabies in Mumbai.

The vaccination drive focused on free-roaming dogs, with the aim to stop the spread of the disease which causes approximately 20,000 human deaths in India each year – with 99% of these cases caused by a dog bite.

The project was spearheaded by Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in partnership with Mission Rabies, a project of UK animal welfare charity Worldwide Veterinary Service (WVS) which was launched in 2013. They aim to vaccinate 70% of any given dog population, which is the coverage needed to eliminate the disease in dogs.

Dr Luke Gamble, CEO and Founder of Worldwide Veterinary Service, said, “It is devastating that more children die from rabies in India than any other nation, especially when rabies is completely preventable. Large-scale dog vaccination programmes are scientifically proven to be the most effective way to control the disease and save both human and animal lives. Vaccinating 26,951 dogs in just a week is an incredible achievement by a dedicated and passionate Indian led team.

“This intensive campaign is an important part of a much wider project led by the local government to vaccinate close to 100,000 dogs in the Mumbai region this year and we are honoured to support the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation in their efforts to rid Mumbai of this cruel and deadly disease. This project is a pivotal step for rabies control in India and we are hugely grateful to the many partners, volunteers, and supporters, who have made this possible as we work to create a rabies free world.”

The drive was supported by many local non-profit organisations and volunteers from India and around the world. Dr Maria King, a veterinarian from Manchester, was a volunteer at the Mumbai drive.

“Vaccination goals were met and exceeded, as were my expectations of this journey,” she said. “If there is such thing as a calling in life, then I have found mine. It was an honour to help serve on the front line and make a difference!”

The Mumbai initiative follows the success of rabies control work in Goa, a state which was declared a “Rabies Controlled Area” in 2021 – the very first of its kind in India. The ultimate goal for India is to eliminate human rabies deaths by 2030.

Dr Aswin Susheelan, Mission Rabies’ Project Lead for the Mumbai project, added, “Once symptoms develop, rabies is 100% fatal, so it is vital that we protect communities from this threat. Large-scale canine vaccination campaigns, such as this one, stop the spread of the disease at its source and protect human and animal lives.

“The completion of this mass vaccination drive is a significant milestone in advancing rabies control measures in Mumbai.  It is now crucial that we keep this momentum going as we work towards the goal of eliminating human rabies deaths across India by 2030.”

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