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WHO Approves Increasing Supply of Cholera Vaccine

Update Date: Jan 09, 2016 12:37 PM EST

The World Health Organization (WHO) has approved a third supplier to manufacture a vaccine for cholera with the intention of doubling the global stockpile.

The WHO announced on Friday that South Korean firm, EUBiologics, is expected to produce about three million doses of the oral vaccine that combats against the bacterial infection. Cholera, which typically spreads through water, causes severe diarrhea and dehydration, and can lead to death within hours.

Stephen Martin, who is from the WHO's epidemic diseases unit, stated that with the additional number of vaccines being produced, the total amount that would become available for countries that are in dire need of it could reach six million. It takes two doses of the vaccine to provide full protection against the bacteria.

Martin added that introducing a third supplier will definitely help out with the demand since last year's "demand was greater than [the] supply." Haiti and Sudan had asked for a greater supply of the vaccine but were turned down because of a shortage.

"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," WHO said in a statement reported by NBC News.

Last year, the bulk of the vaccines from the WHO's stockpile went to Iraq. The country had a massive immunization campaign after reporting more than 2,800 cases. The campaign ended at the end of the year and the WHO has declared the outbreak over.

The addition of the third supplier is expected to reduce the cost per dose from $1.80 to $1.45.

The other two suppliers are Indian company Shantha Biotechnics of Sanofi Pasteur and Swedish company, Crucell. Last year, Shantha Biotechnics was the sole producer of the oral vaccine for the stockpile, providing the WHO with three million doses, which protected 1.5 million people from the disease. Crucell manufactures the vaccine but does not provide any to the WHO's stockpile.

The stockpile, which was started in 2013, has led to the use and distribution of more vaccines within the past few years than in the 15 years prior to the beginning of the program. The Vaccine Alliance GAVI had donated $115 to help fund the program.

Every year, there are about 1.4 to 4.3 million cases of cholera with about 142,000 deaths.

This year, many of the doses from the stockpile will be going to Haiti, where a vaccination campaign will start this month. A total of 240,000 people are expected to get the vaccine.

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