By Bilkisu Ado Zango
The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday said that, the supply of Oral Cholera Vaccines (OCV) is to be doubled, to address global shortages and expand access in more countries.
This was contained in a statement by the organisation issued in Lagos which stated that the production of OCV is low globally with demands currently exceeding supply.
WHO said that the OCV has been used in mass vaccination campaigns in response to humanitarian emergencies since 1997 explained that, addressing the shortage will now be possible as approval has been granted to a third producer, a South Korean company, for the vaccine who is the latest OCV manufacturer to be approved under the WHO’s pre-qualification programme further added that, the inclusion of an additional pre-qualified vaccine producer is expected to double global supply to six million doses for 2016.
The programme ensures that drugs and vaccines bought by countries and international procurement agencies such as UNICEF meet acceptable standards of quality, safety and efficacy.
The world body said, ‘However, because the disease disproportionately affects poor communities who are often unaware that the vaccines exist, there has historically been little demand for the products. Vaccination for cholera requires two doses per person, meaning the stockpile is sufficient to cover one million people. Access to OCV has been further improved by a commitment of US$115 million over five years from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. This is to expand availability and the use of vaccine in countries with endemic cholera.’
The statement described cholera as an acute diarrhoeal disease that could kill within hours if left untreated while there are between 1.4 million and 4.3 million cases a year and as many as 142 000 deaths, not forgetting that, climate change and El Niño may also be contributing to more frequent cholera outbreaks. Hence, cholera is endemic in more than 50 countries but usually only garners international attention during humanitarian emergencies.