Cholera vaccine supply set to double this year

UNITED NATIONS : The World Health Organization (WHO) has said global supply of oral cholera vaccines is set to double this year to six million doses, after it approved a third producer.

Globally, oral cholera vaccines production is low, with demands currently exceeding supply. Sudan and Haiti last year made requests to WHO for supplies of vaccines to conduct pre-emptive vaccination campaigns, but the request could not be filled because of the global shortage. 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, WHO said.

Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal disease that can kill within hours if left untreated. WHO said there are between 1.4 million and 4.3 million cases a year, and as many as 142,000 deaths.

WHO said the addition of an additional pre-qualified vaccine producer is expected to double global supply to 6 million doses for 2016, with the potential for further increased production in the future.

A South Korean company is the latest oral cholera vaccine manufacturer to be approved under the WHO’s pre-qualification programme, which ensures that drugs and vaccines bought by countries and international procurement agencies such as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) meet acceptable standards of quality, safety and efficacy.

Oral cholera vaccines have been used in mass vaccination campaigns in response to humanitarian emergencies since 1997. But because the disease disproportionately affects poor communities who are often unaware that the vaccines exist, there has historically been little demand for the products.

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