The UN health watchdog says cholera outbreaks are now larger and deadlier than in previous years
A student receives an oral cholera vaccine from a health worker during the vaccination campaign. © Global Look Press / Keystone Press Agency / Sazzad Hossain
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that global stockpiles of cholera vaccines are “empty or extremely low” as outbreaks of the disease increase and mortality rates rise.
“We have no more vaccines. More countries are continuing to request [them] and it’s extremely challenging,” Dr. Philippe Barboza, WHO team lead for cholera and epidemic diarrhoeal diseases, said in Geneva on Friday.
The UN health watchdog official described the situation as “quite unprecedented,” since not only are there more outbreaks, but “these outbreaks are larger and more deadly than the ones we have seen in past years.”
According to the WHO, there has been an increase in cholera cases globally since 2021, when 23 countries were affected. The trend has continued this year, with 29 countries reporting cases and outbreaks of the disease.
The WHO pointed out that, while cholera is preventable, a shortage of vaccines persists. It said that the sole producers, South Korea and India, were already at “maximum production” of 36 million shots per year. A South African manufacturer is planning to start production but the initiative will take “a few years” to materialize, Barboza said.