900,000 vaccines “en route” to Cox’s Bazar to prevent cholera

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Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, 29 September 2017 – The International Coordinating Group (ICG) on Vaccine Provision will release 900,000 doses of the Oral Cholera Vaccine (OCV) from the global stockpile to prevent the spread of cholera among recently arrived vulnerable populations and host communities in areas around Cox’s Bazar.

The Government of Bangladesh made the request to the ICG on 27 September, and the approval was granted in 24 hours by the coordinating mechanism that brings together WHO, UNICEF, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), and the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC).

ICG partners – with support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance – will deliver 900,000 doses of Oral Cholera Vaccine to Bangladesh within two weeks for an immunization campaign due to start in October.

“This is a precautionary step to avoid a preventable cholera outbreak,” said Dr. Abul Kalam Azad, Director General of Health Services at the Bangladesh Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. “We appreciate the support and speed of partners in delivering on this urgent request, and we look forward to receiving and using the vaccines.”

More than half a million people have crossed from Myanmar to Bangladesh since 25 August following violence in Rakhine State.

Many are crowded into camps or temporary settlements with challenging access to clean water and sanitation amid heavy rains; this increases the risk of vector and waterborne diseases such as cholera.

“We are doing everything we can to prevent an outbreak, including pre-positioning supplies, implementing disease surveillance and monitoring water quality,” said Dr. Navaratnasamy Paranietharan, WHO Representative in Bangladesh. “A vaccination campaign will help to keep this vulnerable population safe from cholera.”

Gavi, WHO and partners are working with the Government of Bangladesh to make the vaccine available free-of-charge to affected populations, while supporting ongoing cholera prevention and preparedness.

“There is an urgent need to protect the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who have sought shelter in Bangladesh as well as resident population with the oral cholera vaccine,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “We are gravely concerned by the critical situation that they are facing and by the potential public health disaster that could occur if we don’t act fast. The vaccine is an important tool to protect them against the disease and ultimately save lives.”

OCVs provide immediate, short-term protection that can be implemented while interventions to improve access to safe water and sanitation are put into place.

Note to editors

The International Coordinating Group (ICG) is a mechanism involving UNICEF, WHO, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) that makes emergency vaccine stockpiles available to countries to stop disease outbreaks.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is a public-private partnership committed to saving children's lives and protecting people's health by increasing equitable use of vaccines in lower-income countries. The Vaccine Alliance brings together developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry, technical agencies, civil society, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private sector partners. Gavi uses innovative finance mechanisms, including co-financing by recipient countries, to secure sustainable funding and adequate supply of quality vaccines. Since 2000, Gavi has contributed to the immunisation of nearly 640 million children and the prevention of more than 9 million future deaths. Learn more at www.gavi.org and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is building a better future for people everywhere. Health lays the foundation for vibrant and productive communities, stronger economies, safer nations and a better world. As the lead health authority within the United Nations (UN) system, we help ensure the safety of the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink and the medicines and vaccines that treat and protect us and keep the world safe from public health threats of outbreaks and emergencies. The Organization aims to provide every child, woman and man with the best chance to lead a healthier, longer life. For more information about WHO visit www.searo.who.int or Facebook and Twitter (@WHOSEARO and @WHO)

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Media contact:

Shamila Sharma
Phone: +91 9818287256
Email: sharmasha@who.int

Michael Vurens van Es (from Bangladesh)
Phone: +91 9599 971643
Email: vurensm@who.int

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