World's first cheap cholera vaccine | Connect Asia

World's first cheap cholera vaccine

World's first cheap cholera vaccine

Updated 18 January 2012, 20:20 AEDT

An international health organisation says it's developed the world's first cheap cholera vaccine which has been licensed in India, paving the way for its global use.

The Seoul-based International Vaccine Institute or IVI says the vaccine's been tested in India and initial results show it's offered significant protection.

Presenter: Sonja Heydeman

Dr John Clemens, the IVI's Director General in Seoul

JOHN CLEMENS: India was selected for a couple of reasons. One is that India has world-class vaccine manufacturers that are capable of producing vaccines at the highest international standards and secondly, India has a regulatory authority that is approved by the World Health Organization. Of course, India as well has a cholera problem which has attracted Indian producers to cholera vaccine. So that with a high quality Indian manufacturer there is the possibility of making an affordable yet high quality vaccine available to the world's poorest people.

SONJA HEYDEMAN: How cheap is this vaccine to distribute potentially?

JOHN CLEMENS: The producer has yet to give a formal price but we believe that with a sufficient volume of production - and volume is an important issue because there is some price elasticity to the cost of the vaccine - that the vaccine could be made available for roughly $1 a dose.

SONJA HEYDEMAN: Given the fact that this product can be mass-produced, what does this mean, for example, for places, let's say, in Asia where cholera can be indeed endemic in populations?

JOHN CLEMENS: It means that we now have a vaccine that could be deployed as a tool for controlling endemic cholera. We have to be cognisant, however, that the ultimate solution to cholera is the provision of clean drinking water and adequate sanitation - but of course for many of the very, very poor populations in which cholera thrives and exacts a major toll of mortality, improved water and sanitation is a far-off goal and vaccines will play an important role.

SONJA HEYDEMAN: Do we know how many people actually die around the world of cholera each year, is there a figure?

JOHN CLEMENS: Best estimates are that the global burden of mortality due to cholera is of the order of 120,000 deaths per year. It's important to note that according to WHO statistics - which actually greatly underestimate the burden of cholera - cholera has been on the increase worldwide during the last decade and of course cholera has caused major prolonged epidemics in places where cholera had previously not been a problem such as Angola, Zimbabwe very recently and northern Vietnam. So cholera's not a problem that appears to be going away.

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