WHO Grants Prequalification To New Oral Cholera Vaccine
July 14, 2024

WHO Grants Prequalification To New Oral Cholera Vaccine

New Hope Against The Disease

The World Health Organization (WHO) has granted prequalification to a new oral vaccine for cholera, marking a pivotal development in global health.

The inactivated oral vaccine Euvichol-S received the WHO’s stamp of approval on April 12, 2024. Its simplified formulation promises to scale up production capacity rapidly.

Dr Rogerio Gaspar, Director of the WHO Department for Regulation and Prequalification, lauded the new vaccine as a vital addition to the fight against cholera.

“The new vaccine is the third product of the same family of vaccines we have for cholera in our WHO prequalification list,” Dr Gaspar noted, highlighting its potential to immediately address the pressing needs of communities dealing with cholera outbreaks.

Manufactured by EuBiologicals in South Korea, the Euvichol-S vaccine joins its predecessors, Euvichol and Euvichol-Plus, on WHO’s prequalification list.

The simplified formulation of Euvichol-S is poised to revolutionise production processes, offering a ray of hope for improved accessibility to cholera vaccination in regions grappling with critical shortages.

Public Health Challenge

Cholera outbreaks pose a significant public health challenge, exacerbated by water, sanitation, and hygiene infrastructure deficiencies in affected areas.

The alarming surge in cholera cases—473,000 cases in 2022—a doubling from the previous year underscored the urgent need for effective intervention strategies.

In 2023, an estimated increase of 700,000 cases further compounded the global burden of cholera, with 23 countries reporting outbreaks.

The impact has been particularly severe in nations such as the Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Somalia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, underscoring the imperative for robust preventive measures.

Vaccination is the most effective tool for preventing, containing, and controlling cholera outbreaks, offering a crucial line of defence against the disease’s relentless spread.

With the addition of Euvichol-S to WHO’s prequalification list, hopes are high for bolstered efforts to stem the tide of cholera and safeguard the health and well-being of vulnerable populations worldwide.

Vibrio cholerae

Cholera is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae, which primarily spreads through contaminated water and food. It wreaks havoc on communities and poses significant public health challenges.

Characterised by severe diarrhoea and vomiting, cholera can lead to rapid dehydration and, if left untreated, death within hours. Its ability to spread swiftly in densely populated areas and during humanitarian crises underscores the urgency of effective prevention and control measures.

The burden of cholera falls disproportionately on developing countries, where poverty, overcrowding, and limited access to healthcare exacerbate its impact. Fragile health systems often struggle to contain outbreaks, resulting in devastating consequences for affected populations.

Preventing cholera hinges on improving water and sanitation infrastructure, ensuring access to safe drinking water, and promoting hygiene practices such as handwashing. Vaccination campaigns are crucial in controlling outbreaks and protecting vulnerable communities.

In recent years, advancements in vaccine development have offered hope in the fight against cholera.

Outbreak Settings

Oral cholera vaccines, including newer formulations like Euvichol-S, have demonstrated efficacy in reducing the incidence of the disease and mitigating its spread, particularly in outbreak settings.

However, sustainable progress in cholera control requires comprehensive approaches that address underlying socio-economic factors contributing to its persistence. Investments in infrastructure, healthcare systems, and community education are essential to breaking the cycle of cholera transmission and achieving long-term improvements in public health.

International cooperation and support are critical in mobilising resources and coordinating efforts to combat cholera globally.

Initiatives such as the Global Task Force on Cholera Control (GTFCC) and partnerships between governments, non-governmental organisations, and international agencies are instrumental in driving progress toward the WHO’s cholera elimination goals.

Ultimately, eradicating cholera demands a concerted commitment to equity, access, and sustainability, ensuring no community is left behind in the quest for a cholera-free world.

Featured image: Cholera can lead to rapid dehydration and, if left untreated, death within hours. Credit: Kinga Howard

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