An oral cholera vaccine that is in short supply could treat more people and save more lives in crisis situations, if one dose were dispensed instead of the recommended two, new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research suggests.
More than 1.5 billion people around the world are at risk for cholera, a severe diarrheal illness caused by bacteria linked to poor water and sanitation. It is a major killer worldwide, causing an estimated two to three million cases and 100,000 deaths each year, primarily in developing nations.
A relatively new vaccine — internationally licensed by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2011 — is in short supply, with roughly two million doses kept in a WHO stockpile. Current protocol calls for two doses of the vaccine to be given at least two weeks apart. During recent outbreaks, including the one in Port-au-Prince following Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake, the vaccine has not been in wide use — in part because there is not enough of it. Roughly 120,000 people contracted cholera and more than 800 died from it in the months after the quake.
The Bloomberg School researchers set out to determine the best way to use this limited supply to make the biggest impact on health, and they published a report on their findings in PLOS Medicine on Aug. 25.