Study shows 40-50 percent vaccination rate needed to halt cholera in Haiti

University of Florida researchers recently suggested that the cholera epidemic in Haiti could be contained by vaccinating less than half the population.

The new study, which appears in the journal Scientific Reports, lands the University of South Florida's Emerging Pathogens Institute in the middle of the debate about whether it makes sense to vaccinate Haitians against the waterborne illness.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has voiced skepticism about vaccinating against cholera on a large scale in Haiti. Instead, the agency has emphasized the need to improve sanitation and clean up the country's water supply as the best ways to check the illness.

EPI's Zindoga Mukandavire and J. Glenn Morris, Jr., in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins Bloom School of Public Health, concluded that vaccinating just under half the population could stem the outbreak, making efforts more feasible. The team also suggests using mathematical models to aid in targeting vaccination campaigns to gain optimal results.

"You don't have to immunize everybody," Morris said. "Even if we could get an immunization rate in the range of 40 to 50 percent, it should be possible to control recurrent cholera outbreaks. That should be enough to tilt things in your favor so that you can start getting control of the disease in these areas, to where, hopefully, rates of transmission will slow and numbers of cases will gradually die off."