Haiti is all set to start vaccinating one lakh people with an oral cholera vaccine “Shanchol” developed by the Hyderabad-based Shantha Biotechnics. According to a news report in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the first phase of the campaign will be targeting 50,000 people living in Port-au-Prince and will be followed by a further 50,000 in the Artibonite River valley. The vaccination programme became possible with the Haiti's National Ethics Committee approving the oral cholera vaccine.

“Partners in Health, an NGO based in Boston bought 2 lakh doses from us,” Harish Iyer, Chief Executive Officer of Shantha Biotechnics told The Hindu over phone. “This would be used for vaccinating one lakh people.” “Shanchol” is a 2-dose vaccine, and the second dose is given two weeks after the first dose.

Single dose of the vaccine was procured from Shantha Biotechnics at the rate of $1.85. According to Dr. Iyer, the oral vaccine can be used for vaccinating people older than one year. “We have not yet tested it in infants. It will be tested sometime in the future,” he said.

The company sold the vaccine in small quantities to Uganda and Solomon Islands late last year-early this year.

The oral cholera vaccine that was developed through the International Vaccine Institute (IVI), based in Seoul, received prequalification from the World Health Organization (WHO) in November last year.

A Phase III clinical trial of the vaccine (2-dose regimen) was conducted by IVI and scientists at the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (NICED), Kolkata to evaluate the safety and effectiveness in people one year and older. “The vaccine was found to be safe and protective for three years,” Deepika Sur of NICED told The Hindu over phone.

“We followed-up 1.10 lakh people for five years,” said Dr. Sur the Principal Investigator of the trial. “At the end of two years we found it protective. At the end of three years also it was found to be protective.” The Institute is currently analysing the data of the 5-year follow up that got over in September 2011. “If protective for five years then it will be useful as a public health tool,” she said. The institute intends to test the vaccine in infants younger than one year and also see the protective effect when given as a single dose. “When there is an outbreak situation, can't go in for two doses,” Dr. Sur explained. “So even if a single dose is effective for just one year it will be good enough in a cholera outbreak situation.”