Research reporting the results of Partners In Health’s cholera vaccination project in Haiti was released today in a special section of The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
The journal’s October issue, released just before the third anniversary of the cholera outbreak on Oct. 19, 2010, features a variety of public health research on cholera in Haiti.
As part of the special section, PIH Senior Health and Policy Advisor Dr. Louise Ivers and colleagues discuss the results of PIH’s rural cholera vaccination campaign in early 2012. The demonstration project was executed in collaboration with Haiti’s Ministry of Health and sought to vaccinate two vulnerable communities in the Artibonite region and build support for using the vaccine more broadly.
“Vaccines should not be viewed as a silver bullet that can subdue cholera in Haiti,” Ivers said. “But wider use of them, such as in campaigns targeting particularly vulnerable populations, can play a meaningful role in protecting people from illness and death.”
The journal article explains the project’s design and successful results. A total of 45,417 people in two communities received at least one dose of the two-dose vaccine, representing 77 to 93 percent of the targeted population. Even more, 91 percent of people who received the first dose also received the second, an excellent completion rate.
Another article reports the results of a similarly successful campaign in Port-au-Prince, conducted by the nonprofit health care organization GHESKIO.
These projects proved that delivering the vaccine in the midst of an epidemic was possible in Haiti. The evidence contributed to the World Health Organization’s recommendation in 2012 to expand access to the vaccine in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Ivers said that community involvement was critical to the project’s success. In advance of the vaccination, community health workers conducted a census of the community and registered people to receive the vaccine. PIH and our Haitian sister organization, Zanmi Lasante, also worked with community leaders to ensure support of the campaign. Ivers said it wasn’t hard to convince community members to be vaccinated because they knew the danger through personal experience.
“We interviewed people in focus groups before the vaccination campaign and they had very emotional stories to tell about their experience with cholera,” Ivers said. “So it was not a far-off, distant issue, but a real and immediate threat.”