Geneva, Switzerland – Supply for life-saving oral cholera vaccine will double in 2016, according to a statement released on Friday by the World Health Organization (WHO). This is an estimated consequence of the latest approval the United Nation’s agency nodded of a third manufacturer, the South Korean company EuBiologics. The WHO expects global supply to increase to 6 million doses this year, with further increases later as a result of the license given to the new vaccine producer.
The latest approval is part of the WHO’s prequalification program that contributes to warrant the safety and quality, as well as the efficacy of vaccines and drugs, which are bought by countries and international procurement agencies like the United nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
The additional capacity will help nations fight outbreaks of cholera, a deadly disease that is endemic in more than 50 countries. Currently, two manufacturers supply 3 million doses of the oral vaccine.
“This additional capacity will contribute to reversing a vicious cycle of low demand, low production, high price and inequitable distribution, to a virtuous cycle of increased demand, increased production, reduced price and greater equity of access,” the WHO said in the release.
According to the WHO, cholera usually only raises international concern during humanitarian emergencies. For instance, in 1994, an outbreak among refugees killed tens of thousands in Goma, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since 1997, oral vaccines have been used as part of mass vaccination campaigns following humanitarian emergencies. However, there has always been little demand for such products because the deadly illness affects more those poor communities that generally are unaware of the vaccine’s existence.
If left untreated, cholera, an acute diarrheal disease, has the potential to kill infected people within hours. An infection of the Vibrio cholerae bacterium in the intestines causes the illness, which claims 142,000 lives each year, affecting between 1.4 million and 4.3 million people annually. While cholera usually does not exhibit symptoms of infection, an estimated of one in ten patients will experience vomiting, leg cramps and watery diarrhea, which could lead to dehydration and shock.
Infection happens when a person consumes food or water that has been contaminated with the cholera bacterium. Feces of an infected person that ends up contaminating water and food is a common source of infection. Moreover, weather phenomenon such as climate change and El Niño are thought to help trigger more frequent episodes of cholera outbreaks.
As a precaution method, people who go into cholera-affected areas are urged to consume water only bottled, chemically treated or boiled water. Regarding food, it must be packaged or consumed right after cooking, while it is still hot.
Health experts recommend avoiding consumption of raw and undercook meats, as well as seafood and vegetables and fruits that are unpeeled. Furthermore, they also advice to wash hands frequently with soap and clean water or use a hand cleaner that is alcohol-based.
Source: World Health Organization