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Cheaper cholera vaccine developed

SCIENTISTS have developed a new cholera vaccine that could give poor populations cheaper protection against the disease, an international health agency said yesterday.

Cholera, an acute intestinal infection caused by contaminated food or water, remains a major health problem in the developing world and kills about 120,000 people a year.

But the only internationally licensed vaccine available is far too expensive for most people in such nations, costing about US$18 for a dose in Bangladesh, according to the Seoul-based International Vaccine Institute. Two other cholera vaccines exist but are not as widely available.

The International Vaccine Institute, established in 1997 under a United Nations initiative, announced that its scientists have developed a new oral vaccine that will be available for about US$1 a dose.

"Cholera is a disease of the very poorest people in the world," IVI Director-General John Clemens said. "And if a cholera vaccine is to be used, it has to be made affordable. It's absolutely imperative that the cost be brought down as low as possible."

India's health agency has approved the new oral vaccine, expected to be mass-produced by an Indian company later this month, IVI said. It "paves the way for a wider use of the vaccine in cholera-epidemic populations" once the World Health Organization approves it, Clemens said, adding that the institute hopes the approval will come later this year.


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