WHO switches to one dose of cholera vaccine as outbreaks surge
The World Health Organization is moving to replace its standard two-dose vaccination regimen for cholera with a single dose due to vaccine shortages and rising outbreaks worldwide.
The one-dose strategy is effective as a response to cholera outbreaks but the duration of protection is limited and appears to be much lower in children, the agency said.
Countries like Haiti, Syria, Malawi are fighting large outbreaks of Cholera, which spreads through contact with contaminated water and food.
Kenya is the latest to have reported an outbreak in six out of its 47 counties after recording 61 cases of the diarrhoeal disease.
The Kenyan health ministry said drought in many parts of the country may worsen the outbreak, and has put all counties on high alert.
There are outbreaks reported in 29 countries and fatality rates rising sharply. According to the WHO climate change means that cholera is a risk in an increasing number of countries, as the bacteria causing the illness multiplies faster in warmer waters.
Cholera is usually caught by eating or drinking contaminated food or water and is closely linked to poor sanitation.
The disease often causes no or mild symptoms, but serious cases cause acute diarrhoea and can kill within hours if untreated.
Vaccine shortages according to the WHO means new strategies must be adopted to protect people.
According to the global body “the exceptional decision reflects the grave state of the cholera vaccine stockpile”.
Wednesday’s decision to temporarily suspend the standard two-dose vaccination regimen is to help save lives, the WHO said.
“The pivot in strategy will allow for the doses to be used in more countries, at a time of unprecedented rise in cholera outbreaks worldwide,” WHO said in a statement on Wednesday.
The WHO’s emergencies director Mike Ryan told journalists in a briefing that the change in strategy was a sign of the “scale of the crisis” caused by a lack of focus on safe sanitation and immunization for all at risk.