Last year, the World Health Organization established a 2 million dose cholera vaccine stockpile for the first time. Cholera outbreaks can be fast and explosive and if communities are not prepared, they can be deadly.
This week the WHO announced the vaccines from the stockpile are currently being given to nearly 140,000 people in two internally displaced persons camps in South Sudan. The camps are considered at high risk for cholera due to overcrowding and lack of adequate water and sanitation infrastructure. If a cholera outbreak were to occur, the health infrastructure would be overwhelmed with cases and not able to respond to other health issues.
The approach of a stockpile for cholera vaccines has many advantages:
- The vaccine is ready immediately to slow the transmission of cholera during an outbreak
- The vaccine can be used preventively during humanitarian emergencies in areas at high risk for cholera
- A 2 million dose stockpile ensures predictability of demand for vaccine suppliers who need to plan production schedules months in advance
Health prevention does not often make the news because there is no health crisis to write about. While South Sudan is in the news for other reasons, hopefully cholera will not be one of them thanks to this preventive use of the vaccine.