News / Health

Cholera Vaccine Another Element of Battling Disease

A girl jumps over an open sewage in Port-au-Prince, Sept. 4, 2012.
A girl jumps over an open sewage in Port-au-Prince, Sept. 4, 2012.
TEXT SIZE - +
Nancy Palus
— The cholera vaccine is emerging as a prominent tool in the fight against the disease that the World Health Organization says kills at least 100,000 people every year.  WHO is creating a cholera vaccine stockpile that countries can tap into during outbreaks. Health experts say the vaccine is not a panacea and must not detract from prevention basics, like safe water and proper sanitation, but given the extent of cholera’s global impact it is an important tool. 

Cholera, silent catastrophe

Advances in vaccine development and promising results in the field have boosted interest in the cholera vaccine. But what really has health ministries and aid agencies increasingly turning to the vaccine is the sheer magnitude of cholera’s impact, in a world where nearly 800 million people live without access to safe drinking water and 2.5 billion without proper sanitation.
 
Infection is fully preventable; one need simply avoid consuming contaminated food or water. But cholera spreads easily in conditions that are prevalent in much of the developing world: poor sanitation, lack of access to safe water, crowded settlements especially in urban areas, and weak infrastructure that crumbles in recurrent natural disasters.
 
The World Health Organization estimates that 3 to 5 million people are infected with cholera every year, with as many as 130,000 deaths. Wider use of the WHO-approved oral cholera vaccine - which currently has two manufacturers - is seen as one way to improve the response.
 
Stockpiling vaccine

Stephen Martin is with a World Health Organization panel working on the cholera vaccine stockpile. He says the hope is that a stockpile will boost vaccine availability. When Haiti - with a population of nearly 10 million - was hit with a massive cholera epidemic in 2010, there was enough vaccine in the entire world for about 100,000 people.
 
"The basic reason for a stockpile is that the vaccine and the disease are in two different places and what we're trying to do is bring them together...Cholera - it’s a cliché I'm sure - it’s a disease of the poor, and there is not a strong voice for cholera vaccines. Therefore it makes it very difficult for vaccine producers to have a stable market and that makes it very difficult for them to plan for increased capacity of vaccine production," Martin said. "What we're hoping to do by stabilizing demand is to increase global production capacity."
 
Proper sanitation, safe water

Health experts say the cholera vaccine must be seen as just one component to be accompanied by other control measures.
 
"Water and sanitation is key, treatment regimes, epidemiological surveillance, social communication. Those are the four pillars of a standard cholera response. These are the standard responses which work, they've been proven to work," stated Martin. "The sort of holistic approach to a cholera outbreak is to use those four pillars, but now we're saying there is another arrow in the quiver here - there's the possibility of using cholera vaccine as well."
 
The World Health Organization needs about $4 million to launch the cholera vaccine stockpile, which would initially contain 2 million doses, Martin says. Two doses of the oral cholera vaccine give 60 to 70 percent protection for two to three years.
 
Medical experts say proper sanitation and safe water are the answer to tackling cholera, but the reality is that global access to these essentials is a long way off.
 
WHO’s Martin says cholera remains a silent catastrophe. "There are 7 billion people in the world, and 1.4 billion of them are at risk of cholera," he added. "This is a huge number. Where is their voice? Where are these people, demanding water and sanitation and vaccine?"
 
Cholera experts say given how difficult it is to predict the extent of an outbreak once cholera hits, having a stockpile in place will be just the beginning. Many complex decisions will lie ahead, on when and where to step in with the vaccine.

You May Like

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid