Cholera vaccination campaign begins in Haiti

Cholera

Nearly a year after a major cholera outbreak began in Haiti, a small portion of the population began receiving donated vaccinations this week against the illness that has already killed more than 7,400.

A national bioethics committee finally approved of the plan to use all available doses of the cheapest cholera vaccine to immunize approximately one percent of the population, according to the New York Times.

The committee vote was the final hurdle for the organizers of the vaccination campaign, who have been pushing for the project to begin since the epidemic started.

Tens of thousands of Haitians, many living in slums in Port-au-Prince, recently took the first two doss of the oral vaccine Shanchol. Tens of thousands more living in rural areas are expected to begin soon. A second dose will be administered two weeks after the first, the New York Times reports.

Partners in Health and Gheskio, the organizers of the campaign, hoped to beat the spring rains that help spread the illness, but the unexpected stall caused by the committee dashed their plans. The rains have already caused a spike in cholera cases throughout the country.

In March, a Haitian radio station raised questions about the project, which had already been approved by the Haitian health minister. The radio station said the campaign could be seen as a medical experiment that treated Haitians like guinea pigs, prompting the bioethics committee to examine the issue.

“This is not a study, it is not a vaccine trial, it is not an experiment,” Dr. Gabriel Timothée, the director general of the Haitian Health Ministry, responded, the New York Times reports.

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