Monday, 31 October 2016

Cholera Vaccines: Need of the Hour in Haiti

Haiti, the Caribbean nation has been frequently hit by natural disasters like hurricanes, floods and has also been struck by powerful earthquakes. In 1963, Hurricane Flora killed 6,000 people in Haiti and Cuba. During the hurricane season eight years ago, Haiti was hit by four storms- Fay, Gustav, Hannah and Ike, which killed more than 800 people and devastated nearly three fourth of its agricultural land. The country has also suffered dire flooding in 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2007. Devastating earthquake flattened parts of the capital, Port-au-Prince in 2010. It killed at least 90,000 people and displaced more than 1.5 million.

With so many natural calamities, Haiti had witnessed many Cholera outbreaks in the recent past. Cholera which causes severe diarrhea, is spread through contaminated water and has a short incubation period, which leads to rapid outbreaks. The major earthquake in 2010 claimed about 10,000 lives due to Cholera. 771 Cholera cases have been reported every week in 2016, with 28,559 cases in the last ten months.

Hurricane Matthew which hit the country on 4th October has hit the country hard. More than 200,000 homes have been severely damaged and 175,000 people are still living in temporary shelters across the country. Since the storm, health workers have diagnosed more than 200 people with cholera, and 13 have died. As per WHO figures, 35 of 197 health facilities in Haiti, including hospitals, clinics and treatment centres have been affected by the floods and heavy winds following the hurricane.

International organizations like Gavi and WHO have announced that they will be sending doses of Cholera Vaccine in order to protect Haitians against the growing threat of cholera outbreak. According to Dominique Legros, cholera expert at the WHO, since Hurricane Matthew hit the island there has been a sharp increase in cholera cases, with more than 200 suspected cases reported since the storm hit. Public health officials have already indicated that there is a high risk of cholera transmission in the worst hit areas and the assessment will help in drawing an effective roadmap for the emergency vaccination programme in the country.

“Gavi will continue to work closely with the Government of Haiti and with our global health colleagues to stave off the potential threat of cholera outbreaks and enable the Haitian people to stay healthy and focused on repairing the damage caused by Hurricane Matthew.” said Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi.

Though International organizations are working towards stopping another Cholera outbreak through vaccines, supplies are still low to reach the high number of people at risk. According to Justin Lessler, an associate professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health "the people who need cholera vaccine are generally the poorest people. People with money generally have the ability to get clean water, stay away from cholera"

Cholera is endemic in over 50 countries with estimated mortality of 100,000-120,000 deaths and a morbidity of 3.8-4.4 million annual cases attributed to this disease. There is an urgent need of highly effective and affordable Cholera vaccines both for outbreaks as well as mass vaccination campaigns.
The huge Cholera burden has led to a demand for an effective, low-cost Cholera vaccine for use in epidemic outbreaks as well as for mass vaccinations in endemic settings. A market also exists for travellers to endemic regions. Demand estimates for Cholera vaccines vary significantly across scenarios with an expected 30 million doses needed by 2016 rising to expected 200 million doses by 2025, assuming vaccination of all 1-14 year old patients in high risk populations. Global public health community has also expressed concern that current Cholera vaccine manufacturers may not be able to meet the projected increase in demand further strengthening the requirement for alternate, low-cost vaccine supply.

Hilleman Laboratories in collaboration with Gotovax AB (a University of Gothenburg spin-off biopharmaceutical company) aims to deliver a high impact Oral Cholera vaccine at a significantly more affordable price than the ones currently available in the market. Easy to administer, with cross protection against ETEC diarrhea and enhanced with a longer shelf life, this vaccine candidate will be most suited for geographies with the highest cholera burden like Africa and South Asia.

Hilleman Laboratories has also recently announced the signing of an MoU with ICDDR,B and Incepta Vaccine Ltd, both based in Bangladesh for further development and manufacturing of our vaccine.

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Hilleman Laboratories is a global vaccine research & development organization focused on making affordable vaccines using innovation to address gaps that exist in low resource settings. Hilleman Labs acts as a catalyst in bridging the gap between academic research and product development by targeting novel vaccines and increasing the efficiency of existing vaccines. Know More

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