Rabies is a fatal zoonotic disease preventable through timely and adequate post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to potentially exposed persons i.e. wound washing and antisepsis, a series of intradermal (ID) or intramuscular (IM) rabies vaccinations, and rabies immunoglobulin in WHO category III exposures. The 2010 WHO position on rabies vaccines recommended PEP schedules requiring up to 5 clinic visits over the course of approximately one month. Abridged schedules with less doses have potential to save costs, increase patient compliance, and thereby improve equitable access to life-saving PEP for at-risk populations. We systematically reviewed new evidence since that considered for the 2010 position paper to evaluate (i) the immunogenicity and effectiveness of PEP schedules of reduced dose and duration; (ii) new evidence on effective PEP protocols for special populations; and (iii) the effect of changing routes of administration (ID or IM) during a single course of PEP. Our search identified a total of 14 relevant studies. The identified studies supported a reduction in dose or duration of rabies PEP schedules. The 1-week, 2-site ID PEP schedule was found to be most advantageous, as it was safe, immunogenic, supported by clinical outcome data and involved the least direct costs (i.e. cost of vaccine) compared to other schedules. To supplement this evidence, as yet unpublished additional data were reviewed to support the strength of the recommendations. Evidence suggests that changes in the rabies vaccine product and/or the route of administration during PEP is possible. Few studies have evaluated PEP schedules in persons with suspect or confirmed rabies exposures. Gaps exist in understanding the safety and immunogenicity of novel PEP schedules in special populations such as infants and immunocompromised individuals. Available data indicate that administering rabies vaccines during pregnancy is safe and effective.
- All age groups