Experts call for U.S. cholera vaccine stockpile

Three health experts have recommended that the United States begin creating a stockpile of cholera vaccines so that they could be rapidly deployed to areas with major cholera outbreaks like the current one in Haiti.

The experts, from George Washington University, the International Vaccine Institute and Harvard Medical School, believe that, for a relatively low cost, the gesture could lead to high rewards, AFP reports.

“The costs to the US of creating and maintaining a stockpile of several million doses of cholera vaccine would be low,” the experts wrote in a New England Journal of Medicine article, according to AFP. “But the humanitarian benefits of rapid deployment of cholera vaccines to areas at high risk for major cholera outbreaks - such as earthquake-wracked Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital where 1.3 million people live in unsanitary refugee camps - could be enormous.”

The sudden outbreak in Haiti last month has killed 1,415 people with approximately 56,000 infections recorded to date. Expert speculation puts the potential ceiling for additional cases around 200,000 in the coming three months, according to AFP.

Since the large quantity of vaccines is not currently available, it is not yet possible to consider the large-scale vaccination of the highly at-risk population. The global shortage of vaccinations “reinforces the urgency of creating a stockpile,” one of the experts wrote, according to AFP.