WASHINGTON, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- The global stockpile of oral cholera vaccine is set to double in size with the approval of a third producer, the World Health Organization announced Friday.
The addition of a South Korean manufacturer will boost supply to about six million doses for 2016 and will increase production even more in the future, the WHO said in a press release.
Two oral vaccines for cholera exist, dukoral and shanchol, both of which require two doses to prevent the disease -- meaning the increased stockpile will be enough to vaccinate three million people.
Two studies in 2015 found shanchol, along with improvements to hygiene and water supplies, could reduce incidence of the disease when steadily promoted and distributed to target populations.
"The creation of the stockpile and pre-qualification of a new vaccine producer highlights the success of an international joint effort through public-private partnership, including governments, non-profit organizations, manufacturers, donors and research organizations," the WHO said in the press release.
Cholera causes extreme diarrhea and can kill within hours if not treated. There are between 1.4 and 4.3 million cases per year, leading to 142,000 deaths, according to the WHO.
Oral cholera vaccine production and demand are low around the world, in many cases because people do not know it exists. The WHO's hope is with higher production and a larger stockpile, they will be able to better promote the vaccine's use and fill orders they have had problems with in the past.
In 2015, the agency said requests by Sudan and Haiti for supplies to vaccinate their populations and prevent an outbreak could not be met because of shortages.
The added production and distribution capacity is being funded with a $115 million pledge from Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance. Studies on sanchol, including the two last year, were partially funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which also has been working to lower the drug's price from $3.70 per dose to below $2 as its production and use increases.