Global Stockpile of Cholera Vaccine Is Gone as Outbreaks Spread

Doses of cholera vaccine are being given to patients as fast as they are produced and the global stockpile has run completely dry, as deadly outbreaks of the disease continue to spread.

This does not shock anyone in the field of emergency epidemic response because the vaccine stockpile has been precariously low for years.

The surprise — the good news, which is in itself surprising since ‘cholera’ and ‘good news’ are rarely used together — is that three new vaccine makers are setting up production lines and joining the effort to replenish the stockpile.

And a fourth company, the only one that currently makes the vaccine, which is given orally, has been working at a pace that experts describe as “heroic” to expand its production.

Yet even with all this, the total global supply of the vaccine that will become available this year will be, at best, a quarter of what is needed.

At the end of February, countries had already reported 79,300 cases and 1,100 deaths from cholera this year. Since there is no uniform system for counting cases, this is most likely a gross underestimate.

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