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WHO approves simpler cholera vaccine

The World Health Organisation (WHO) announced Friday it had approved a new, simpler version of an existing oral cholera vaccine, whichshould help increase the number of available doses as global cases surge.

The Euvichol-S vaccine is a simplified formulation of Euvichol-Plus, withfewer components — which should allow for larger volumes to be produced faster.

It is produced by EuBiologics, and the World Health Organization hasalready given its green light to the South Korean firm’s Euvichol andEuvichol-Plus vaccines.

The WHO said the new vaccine has a similar efficacy rate.

“The new vaccine is the third product of the same family of vaccines wehave for cholera in our WHO prequalification list,” said Rogerio Gaspar,director of the UN health agency’s department for regulation andprequalification.

“The new prequalification is hoped to enable a rapid increase in productionand supply which many communities battling with cholera outbreaks urgentlyneed.”

Some 473,000 cholera cases were reported to the WHO in 2022 — double thenumber from 2021 — and preliminary data indicates that more than 700,000 caseswere reported last year.

Even though the global supply of oral cholera vaccines ballooned 18-foldbetween 2013 and 2023, the surging demand has created a global shortage.

Currently, 23 countries are reporting cholera outbreaks. The most severeimpacts are being felt in the Comoros, the Democratic Republic of Congo,Ethiopia, Mozambique, Somalia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

In a joint statement, the Gavi vaccine alliance and the UN children’sagency UNICEF said the move would help produce “more volumes of vaccine,faster, and at a lower cost”.

They said it would help increase the global stockpile from 38 million dosesin 2023 to around 50 million this year.

The WHO move “represents a lifeline for vulnerable communities around theworld”, said Derrick Sim, Gavi’s vaccine markets chief.

“The approval of this new product could not have come at a more importanttime given the acute upsurge of cholera outbreaks we are seeing worldwide.”

The liquid vaccine has a 24-month shelf life.

Gavi and UNICEF said EuBiologics was currently the only oral choleravaccine supplier to the global stockpile, though other manufacturers wereexpected to have products available in the coming years.

Cholera is an acute intestinal infection that spreads through food andwater contaminated with the bacterium vibrio cholerae, often from faeces.

It can kill within hours when not treated, but immediate access totreatment saves lives, the WHO says.