Thai princess campaigns for 2020 rabies-free goal

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Princess Chulabhorn. Photo: Government of Thailand, via Wikimedia Commons (CCBY2.0)

“To eliminate rabies, you have to give people the knowledge they need and also teach them about their responsibilities,” said Professor Dr Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn Mahidol during her recent visit to the WHO headquarters in Geneva in late August. Her country of Thailand is striving to become rabies-free by 2020, in advance of the worldwide goal to eliminate rabies by 2030. To aid in this effort, the Princess is lending her celebrity and her scientific expertise to promote stronger rabies-control programs as well as to raise awareness of the impact of rabies on Thailand, especially in rural areas.

Thailand has made great strides in reducing human rabies cases by 90%  since the 1980’s through programs that have improved access to post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and through mass vaccination of dogs. Current efforts include making PEP more widely available by embracing an intradermal vaccine delivery, a cheaper, but just as effective vaccination regimen for human suspected rabies-exposures. WHO has been encouraging more extensive use of the intradermal route for PEP, a vaccination method that requires a reduced volume of vaccine, thereby lowering the overall cost per patient for the cell-cultured vaccine by 60% to 80%.

The Princess holds a doctorate in Chemistry and has been awarded the UNESCO Einstein Medal for her work in promoting scientific collaboration amongst Asian countries. Her current focus is to try to build a fleet of mobile veterinary stations that can travel to remote villages and provide medical treatment and vaccinations to both people and pets in rural areas who do not normally have access to healthcare. In addition, she is working on a sustainable plan for increasing rabies vaccination coverage in dogs and maintaining it at 70%, while also exploring cat and dog population management strategies to improve rabies control efforts.

With these novel rabies-control strategies in place and by improving PEP access in remote areas, Thailand may well reach its goal to become rabies-free by 2020.

Summarized by Laura Baker, GARC from the WHO website “Towards a rabies-free Thailand by 2020