CDC chief optimistic about Haitian vaccination campaigns

The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently said that a campaign to introduce new childhood vaccines to Haiti could potentially save tens of thousands of lives over the next decade.

Dr. Thomas Frieden made the statement after a recent two day trip to the cholera-stricken nation, according to

"This is an enormous step forward for Haiti," Frieden said, reports. "This is a big deal."

A crash vaccination campaign is scheduled to begin this weekend. Before boarding a flight back to the United States, Frieden said that just three out of the 10 vaccines slated to be deployed over the next two years could prevent 20,000 to 50,000 deaths in the following decade.

Frieden was speaking about vaccines to protect against Haemophilus influenza B (Hib), rotavirus and pneumococcal pneumonia. Beginning this week, a combination vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and Hib will be given, along with vaccinations for polio and rubella.

Haiti is also prepared to launch a major vaccination campaign against measles.

"It's quite common," Frieden said, according to "The risk of measles being imported into Haiti is quite large. It's not there now, but if it were to get in, it could kill 20,000 kids in less than a year."

When the U.S. delegation arrived, a pilot vaccination campaign against cholera had just begun. Frieden was decidedly skeptical about the plan. He said that such a vaccine had never been used during an ongoing epidemic and that global supplies of the vaccine were limited.

"I don't think it's really a question of disagreement, but what makes the most sense to save the most lives ... how to get the job done," Frieden said, reports. "There is zero disagreement [about] the need to strengthen water and sanitation systems throughout Haiti. In addition, we should look carefully at the current and potential future role for cholera vaccine."