The World Health Organization (WHO) will send 1 million doses of oral cholera vaccine to Haiti because of concerns that the hurricane-devastated country will experience a spike in new cholera cases.
The decision to send the vaccines and other medical supplies, announced on 11 October 2016, is aimed at averting new outbreaks of the disease before the onset of Haiti’s peak cholera transmission period, which is from November to January — during the rainy season.
Dominique Legros, cholera expert at the WHO, says that since Hurricane Matthew hit the island on 4 October 2016 there has been a sharp increase in cholera cases, with more than 200 suspected cases reported since the storm hit.
Legros is due to travel to the island to discuss with Haitian health authorities how best to use the vaccine. There are two options for using the 1 million doses, says Legros: the commonly used two-dose strategy, which could protect 500,000 people for two years; or a single-dose campaign, which would be easier to implement and cover 1 million people — but this would only offer short-term protection.
The WHO had previous experience with a large-scale single dose campaign in Bangladesh in 2014, Legros says. “It had proved effective for six months,” he explains.
The 1 million doses of oral cholera vaccine destined for Haiti will come from the WHO’s global stockpile of 2.2 million doses. Each dose costs US$1.85 but with the inclusion of shipment and delivery the total cost is about US$6 per dose, says Legros.
According to the WHO, 35 of 197 health facilities in Haiti — including hospitals, clinics and treatment centres — have been affected by the floods and heavy winds following the hurricane.
Meanwhile, the United Nations launched a flash appeal for Haiti on 10 October 2016, seeking US$119.8m in aid funds from donors, which will be aimed to assist up to 750,000 people impacted by the storm over three months.