Bali launches historic island-wide campaign to eradicate rabies

In the lead up to World Rabies Day, on 28 September 2010, the Bali government signed an agreement authorising a mass vaccination campaign to inoculate nearly 400,000 dogs as an essential first step towards eradicating rabies from the island by 2012.

This first island-wide vaccination programme is being funded by WSPA, working closely with the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA). It follows the successful pilot vaccination scheme earlier this year’s of more than 70 per cent of the dogs in Gianyar and Bangli, two of its administrative regions, or regencies.

Speaking at the signing event, the Governor of Bali said, "The Balinese community live in harmony with their animals and did not want to see them killed, but we did not have a choice in our fight against rabies - thanks to the international community, we now have a humane alternative for protecting our people and our animals."

This agreement with Bali’s government will enable teams of trained animal handlers to inoculate dogs in the island’s remaining seven regencies. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that such vaccinations are “Globally, the most cost-effective strategy for preventing rabies in people.”

Mike Baker, Chief Executive Officer of WSPA, said, “By choosing to eradicate rabies through a dedicated vaccination effort, Bali is taking the most effective route to protecting the health of its citizens, as well as the thousands of tourists who visit the island every year. With this campaign, Bali is set to take centre stage and demonstrate a perfect model for rabies control to other countries where rabies continues to be a challenge.”

Rabies programme of historic proportions

WSPA has designed the vaccination programme in close consultation with the Bali government authorities as they will reclaim responsibility for managing and resourcing the scheme after phase one – the historic inoculation of 70 per cent of the island’s dogs (as many as 400,000 animals, spread across Bali’s 5,500 square km). This constitutes a unique collaboration between government, intergovernmental aid, human health, and animal welfare agencies.  Efforts in phase one have been supported by a generous donation from AusAID of 370,000 doses of the rabies vaccine to supplement the drugs for human post-exposure treatment from the Bali and Indonesian Central Government.

A successful WSPA blueprint for rabies control

Dog being captured for vaccinations

Dog being captured for vaccinations

© WSPA

The Bali government’s resuming of ownership for the programme will ensure that the critical immunity threshold – of at least 70 per cent of Bali’s dog population being vaccinated – is maintained year on year, until the island is able to safely celebrate being rabies free. As the world marks World Rabies Day on 28 September, this new, multi-stakeholder approach to rabies control, developed by WSPA, provides a direct blueprint for implementation in other rabies-afflicted areas.

While submitting its proposal for the island-wide vaccination, WSPA pointed out that animal vaccination has been shown to be the most effective way to control rabies. In Mexico, for example, authorities now vaccinate 16 million dogs every year, with the result that the disease is close to eradication. By contrast, in Flores, Indonesia, one third of the dog population was culled between 1998 and 2001, yet rabies still remains a serious problem today.

Rabies initiative good for humans too

News of this joint-initiative is being welcomed by the international community, which is committed to the common goal of rabies eradication. Deborah Briggs, the CEO of the Global Alliance for Rabies Control, and involved in the programme, said, “We’ve seen enough evidence from around the world to reinforce our belief that this mass-vaccination project is the single most effective measure in saving the lives of people on Bali.”

The cost-effective programme requires large-scale funding from WSPA. You can help by contributing directly to the vaccination of Bali’s dogs.

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