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Controlling rabies

Dogs: the main carrier of rabies

Around 99% of human cases of rabies are due to bites from infected dogs. Controlling and eradicating rabies therefore means combatting it at its animal source.

The solution: dog vaccination

Mass vaccination of dogs is the method of choice, because it is the only real way to interrupt the disease’s infectious cycle between animals and humans.

Rabies control programmes

Some countries have already managed to eradicate the disease by applying strict prophylactic measures. But it remains endemic in other countries, mainly affecting wild host species.

In countries where rabies is endemic, measures are in place to control and reduce the risk of infection in vulnerable populations (wildlife, stray and domestic animals) and create a barrier between the animal source and humans.

To achieve this, there need to be mass dog vaccination campaigns combined with public information campaigns and the improvement of access to human medical care (anti-rabies vaccines and sera). 

The effective control of stray dog populations and responsible behaviour by dog owners.

Since May 2019, OIE Standards on rabies include guidance for countries to apply, on a voluntary basis, for the endorsement of their national control programmes for dog-mediated rabies. These guidelines support countries to compile in a standard manner, documented evidence that demonstrates compliance with the requirements described in the Terrestrial Code. The standard operating procedures for the official recognition of disease status / endorsement of national official control programme applications are available here. The first programmes will be endorsed in 2021. Having an OIE-endorsed control programme will pave the way for countries to self-declare freedom from rabies. Consult current self-declarations of rabies freedom.

OIE Standards on rabies

The OIE develops and publishes regularly updated, scientific standards regarding:

  • the prevention and control of rabies, including provisions for OIE-endorsed official control programmes for dog-mediated rabies.
  • stray dog population control;

  • the international movement of dogs and cats originating from rabies infected countries;
  • diagnostic methods and the production of vaccines of a veterinary standard.

These standards have been adopted through consensus by all OIE Member Countries.

The OIE has been striving to combat rabies for decades

Aside from its normative work, the OIE has two objectives:

  • Ensuring transparency regarding knowledge of the disease at the animal level, through an obligation for the OIE’s Member Countries to declare cases and the gathering of scientific data from its worldwide network of reference laboratories.
  • Also, encouraging governments and international donors to invest in rabies control programmes, and particularly in the vaccination of dogs.

Veterinarians and the national Veterinary Services of OIE Member Countries have a major role to play in implementing these strategies at the national and regional level. Their involvement is a vital element in coordinating operations between public health services, local authorities including town councils, law enforcement agencies, and NGOs working in some of the poorest countries.

The OIE supports the vaccination campaigns of its Member Countries

Support for developing countries is essential. With the financial support of the European Union, Australia, Germany, France, Canada and Japan, the OIE World Animal Health and Welfare Fund has already enabled various steps to be taken, such as the creation of an anti-rabies dog vaccine bank in 2012 and regular deliveries mainly to Asia’s and Africa’s poorest countries.

To date (July. 2020), 25,3 million anti-rabies vaccines have been disseminated by the OIE. Of these, 7,7 million have been directly delivered by the OIE to 27 countries to aid their national vaccination programmes. An additional 17,6  million doses have been ordered by countries or international organisations.

Indeed, in the framework of the Tripartite Alliance (WHO, OIE, FAO) on rabies control, the World Health Organization (WHO) has decided to place its procurement orders for canine vaccines through the OIE Rabies Vaccine Bank. As of July 2020, 16,3 million doses of rabies vaccines were purchased by WHO through the OIE Rabies Vaccine Bank for delivery to the Philippines, South Africa, Tanzania, Central African Republic and Pakistan.

This model guarantees the availability of high-quality vaccines complying with OIE intergovernmental Standards, their smooth delivery on the ground as well as a price obtained after a global competition between potential providers.


Explanatory video





Human and dog rabies vaccines and immunoglobulins

Key Messages from the WHO/OIE Consultation held in Geneva, Switzerland
12-13 October 2015

Meeting report