Haiti turned down cholera vaccines, report says

Haiti refused an offer of tens of thousands of doses of cholera vaccine last year that could have potentially limited the spread of an epidemic that killed more than 5,500 people, according to the vaccine maker’s chief executive.

Ronald Brus, the head of Crucell, a Dutch company that produces Dukoral, the leading cholera vaccine, said he proposed significant donations to Haiti, but was turned down by public health officials, according to the Financial Times.

The epidemic has caused more than 363,000 infections and led to appeals for more than $175 million in aid.

The news of the vaccine offer has the potential to intensify the debate over the management of the epidemic, which has diverted vast resources from earthquake reconstruction efforts.

The revelation comes only a week after health experts met in Argentina to discuss vaccine policies in Latin America, including calls to create a vaccine stockpile to avert potential health crises like the one ongoing in Haiti, the Financial Times reports.

Crucell’s donation was designed to blunt the outbreak in the Artibonite region of Haiti, where the disease appears to have originated, in order to keep it out of more densely populated regions of the country.

Peter Graaf, the current Haitian representative to the World Health Organization, said he was unaware of the offer, but said that the country’s health ministry had already decided to reject vaccination proposals.

Graaf said it is doubtful that the plan would have worked in the remote rural areas because cholera was spreading too quickly, the Financial Times reports. At the time, Haitian officials were distracted by alternative priorities, including sanitation and water support, as well as upcoming elections.

A number of charities oppose drug and vaccine donations, believing them to be unsustainable and contributing to a reduction in low cost generic competition.