Cholera vaccinations in Haiti could begin in April

The Pan American Health Organization hopes that with the right funding, it can begin a cholera vaccination program in Haiti by April.

In order to do so, PAHO must produce the vaccine itself, which is currently in short supply.

PAHO, which is the American division of the World Health Organization, has previously opposed full vaccination plans in Haiti because of the difficulty an expense, according to HeraldScotland.com.

The organization announced its change of stance on December 17, partly because of a newly discovered supply of the vaccine, and partly in recognition that the outbreak would not end anytime soon.

“This is a disease caused by a bacterium that has a foothold in Haiti and will be causing endemic cholera for many years to come,” Dr. Jon Andrus, deputy director of PAHO, said, according to HeraldScotland.com. “So if we have options to better our response, we really, really need to study those carefully.”

There are thought to be only 200,000 to 300,000 doses of cholera vaccine in existence at the present time, and only two companies that produce it, according to Ciro de Quadros, executive vice president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute.

PAHO recently found a stockpile of more than one million doses that could be used, but must first be packed and labeled, a process that could take months. The stockpile must also be approved for purchase by the WHO, which might not take place until the first or second quarter of 2011.

Doctors meeting recently under the auspices of PAHO recommended that it meet with manufacturers to discuss ramping up production and working with ways to finance the purchase of additional supplies.

“If there would be a (financial) guarantee, both suppliers could produce two to three million doses a year,” de Quadros said, according to HeraldScotland.com.

Doctors have not been able to agree on the number of doses of vaccine that would be needed in Haiti, but assuming all of the financial pieces fit, a demonstration project could begin as early as April.