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Cholera Vaccination Pilot Project Begins In Haiti

“A year and a half after cholera first struck Haiti, a tiny portion of the population on Thursday began getting vaccinated against the waterborne disease that has infected more than 530,000 Haitians and killed more than 7,040,” the New York Times reports (Sontag, 4/12). The pilot project, which will reach only one percent of Haiti’s population, “aim[s] … to show that it’s possible to give the required two doses over a two-week period to desperately poor and hard-to-reach people,” NPR’s health blog “Shots” writes. “If it works, the plan is to convince the Haitian government, deep-pocketed donors and international health agencies to support a much bigger campaign to vaccinate millions of Haitians at highest risk of cholera,” according to the blog (Knox, 4/12).

The organizers, Partners In Health and GHESKIO, this week received approval from a national bioethics committee to move forward with their plan, the New York Times notes (4/12). A delay in beginning the project, which was planned to begin six weeks ago, “has caused a lot of anxiety,” the NPR blog reports. First “Haiti’s spring rainy season has begun,” which can exacerbate the spread of the cholera bacteria, “Shots” notes, adding, “Second, the delay has pushed the cholera vaccination campaign up against a long-planned national campaign to vaccinate children against measles, rubella, polio, rotavirus, Hemophilus influenzae and pneumonia.” Because the cholera and polio vaccines should not be delivered simultaneously in young children, the organizers will have to “defer cholera vaccination in 9-and-under children until after they’ve received polio vaccine, and then to track them down and give them the cholera vaccine,” the blog writes (4/12).