Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
June 18, 2024

Cholera vaccine campaign funded

By SAMHITA ILANGO | January 31, 2013

The Bloomberg School of Public Health is turning heads as they embark on the cholera vaccine initiative. With the help of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has provided a four-year, $5 million grant to supply the initiative, Hopkins is aiming to promote the benefits of oral vaccinations to prevent cholera all over the world.

Headquartered in Seattle, Wa., the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation seeks to help people lead productive lives. According to the foundation, their goal is to improve people’s health and provide chances to lift themselves out of hunger and poverty. The Foundation already has existing vaccine projects that strive to prevent cholera occurrences worldwide.

To further spread their efforts towards all corners of the globe, the Foundation will team up with the Delivering Oral Vaccine Effectively (DOVE) program, that can provide technical assistance on how to use the oral cholera vaccine properly. The DOVE program will provide agencies and governments proper techniques for delivering the vaccine and help to evaluate current cholera vaccine practices. Additionally, the DOVE program is developing new ground techniques to monitor and direct any cholera outbreaks, concentrating in the northern region of Cameroons.

Cholera kills 100,000 to 200,000 people worldwide and infects about 2.5 million people every year. Drinking unsanitary water or eating unsanitary food is the main cause of spreading the disease. Starting in the early 1800s, cholera infected a large population in India and later in the Bay of Bengal. The disease hit an outbreak after 1817 as contaminated water was dumped into open waters. This further polluted water in many port cities and local waters. Soon enough, the infectious disease had permeated itself through Europe and Russia.  Finally, in the 1830s, cholera was brought to New York City when the French traveled to the New World, causing a disastrous epidemic.

Infection with the cholera bacteria, Vibrio cholerae, leaves patients with watery diarrhea, abdominal pain and a myriad of dehydration-related symptoms, due to a toxin released by the bacteria. For patients, the key to survival and recovery is replacing lost fluids.

The cholera oral vaccine is over 70 percent successful in treating cholera symptoms. The vaccine costs $1.85 per dose, however, and thus is not yet widely used in preventing the outbreaks in developing countries. In the past, cholera has only been treated through means of prevention.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has implemented long term improvements in water supply, sanitation, food safety, and community awareness of preventative measures. However, the WHO has recently implemented oral cholera vaccines which are now available to some individuals. The WHO also stated that the evidence of the benefits of oral cholera vaccines is increasing.

The WHO is also focusing on the prospects of mass vaccination as a public health strategy to protect large populations from cholera. As the investigation continues, issues like logistics of strategy employment, cost, timing, vaccination capacity and criteria for mass vaccinations are being addressed.

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