Countries that have been pleading in vain for cholera vaccine to fight outbreaks of the killer disease may now be able to get it, the World Health Organization said Friday.
WHO has approved vaccines made by a South Korean company, doubling the global supply of the lifesaving oral vaccines.
“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.
“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,” WHO said.
Cholera is caused by a bacterial infection that causes sudden, vicious diarrhea that can kill people within hours if they don’t get treatment.
“There are between 1.4 million and 4.3 million cases a year, and as many as 142,000 deaths,” WHO said. It gets worse after disasters such as the 2010 earthquake in Haiti – an epidemic that was traced back to United Nations troops sent in to help. Haiti had been free of cholera for a century before that.
“Climate change and El Niño may also be contributing to more frequent cholera outbreaks,” WHO said.
WHO started a stockpile of oral cholera vaccines in 2013. It takes two doses to fully protect people. The Vaccine Alliance GAVI donated $115 million to help pay for it.