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A severe shortage of vaccines with the spread of cholera worldwide

MSF provides care for people with symptoms of cholera in Haiti.  The photo is from October.
MSF provides care for people with symptoms of cholera in Haiti. The photo is from October.

A sharp increase in cholera outbreaks worldwide has been exacerbated by a lack of a vaccine.

– Mia Hedenberg of Doctors Without Borders says the need for vaccines is greater than expected and actors are not catching up.

Usually, about fifteen countries suffer from cholera outbreaks each year. This year, the number has nearly doubled — there are now outbreaks in 29 countries, according to Doctors Without Borders.

It created an even bigger crisis as the infection was able to spread.

The need for vaccines this year was much greater than expected. Manufacturers have not caught up, says Mia Heidenberg, medical humanitarian advisor for Doctors Without Borders.

Rapid spread

And in Haiti, which is one of the hardest hit countries, cholera was detected at the end of September. Since then, the difference has accelerated. There are vaccines, but they are far from enough.

– The vaccine would have been a great help. Initially we had 50 cases a day – now we have up to 300 patients a day. We could have broken the upward trend with vaccination, says Hejdenberg.

She says it is difficult to explain the massive increase in cholera outbreaks in the world. Climate change is said to be one of many factors.

Cholera spreads when water and hygiene conditions are poor and can occur during natural disasters and floods. Then the conditions become ideal for cholera.

More affected countries

This year, Lebanon witnessed the first outbreak of cholera in 30 years, as a result of contaminated water sources. In Pakistan, which was hit by floods in early autumn, there are still no signs of an outbreak, but Doctors Without Borders is prepared for it.

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The worst affected, apart from Haiti, are Syria and Lebanon. Doctors Without Borders hopes there will be more of a vaccine soon, but Mia Heidenberg doesn’t think it should happen so quickly.

– Then more actors should start producing cholera vaccines, she says.