By Oluwaseun OLUWAROTIMI, Abuja
World Health Organization (WHO) has said that it is making efforts to double the global supply of oral cholera vaccines in order to ease global shortage.
This scheme will be applicable to Nigeria and some affected countries, according to the agency in a press statement exclusively made available to National TRAIL’s reporter at the weekend.
According to the statement, the initiative is coming just as the United Nations Health agency has approved a third producer, helping to address global shortages and expand access in more countries.
“Globally, Oral Cholera Vaccines (OCV) 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 that could not be filled because of the global shortage” the statement reads.
Furthermore, the agency said the vaccine producer, a South Korean company, is the latest oral cholera vaccine (OCV) 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.
It added that 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, stressing that 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.
Cholera is an acute diarrhea disease that can kill within hours if left untreated. There are between 1.4 million and 4.3 million cases a year, and as many as 142 000 deaths. Cholera is endemic in more than 50 countries, but usually only garners international attention during humanitarian emergencies, such as the outbreak among refugees in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, in 1994 that killed tens of thousands. Climate change and El Niño may also be contributing to more frequent cholera outbreaks.
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.
In 2013 the WHO created the world’s first OCV stockpile, undertaking to buy and use 2 million doses a year in order to stabilize and create demand for the vaccines.