|Experts Call for International Cholera Vaccine Stockpile|
PAHO/WHO urged to design a pilot project to use available vaccine in Haiti
Washington D.C., 17 December 2010 (PAHO) -- A group of experts convened by the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) today urged the creation of an international stockpile of cholera vaccine and called for the use of current vaccines in a pilot project in Haiti that would be expanded as more vaccine becomes available.
The recommendations were based on considerations including the limited supplies of available vaccine, studies of the vaccines' safety and efficacy, and WHO recommendations on cholera vaccination, as well as conditions on the ground in Haiti.
Dr. Jon Andrus, Dr. Ciro de Quadros and Dr. Roger Glass
"While the increased availability of a vaccine is certainly good news, it should be recognized that over 10 million people live in Haiti and over 10 million live in the Dominican Republic," said Dr. Jon K. Andrus, PAHO's deputy director and a leading vaccine expert. "Under no circumstances could there be enough vaccine-over 40 million doses-to vaccinate all the inhabitants of the island of Hispaniola over the next year."
Participants said the situation in Haiti clearly demonstrates the need for an international stockpile of cholera vaccine, which would stimulate vaccine production and guarantee vaccine supplies.
Toward that end, "We have asked PAHO/WHO to dialogue with suppliers to see how much more vaccine they can produce and to dialogue with organizations who would be willing to finance the purchase of vaccine," said Dr. Ciro de Quadros, executive vice-president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute. Dr. de Quadros, who chaired the meeting, also heads the Technical Advisory Group of PAHO's immunization program.
At the same time, the experts urged the development of a pilot project in Haiti that would utilize the immediately available vaccine and also provide lessons on how to introduce cholera vaccine effectively in a country that not only has an ongoing epidemic but also is recovering from a major earthquake. The group urged PAHO/WHO to design such a project and to seek funding for it.
Since mid-October, Haiti's cholera epidemic has sickened at least 112,000 people and claimed at least 2,400 lives.
PAHO/WHO experts believe the true toll of the epidemic is probably significantly higher than these official numbers, because of gaps in surveillance.
PAHO/WHO and other U.N. agencies as well as nongovernmental organizations have been supporting Haiti's Ministry of Health in the response to the epidemic. Their efforts have focused on ensuring treatment and prevention, with an emphasis on prompt administration of oral rehydration salts or, for severe cases, intravenous fluids and antibiotics. Prevention efforts have focused on ensuring access to safe drinking water, improving sanitation and waste disposal, and promoting safe food handling and personal hygiene practices.