Cholera outbreaks can be mitigated by the use of vaccination after they have begun, according to two new studies. This issue is currently at the top of the research agenda for many scientists, as controversy over plans to roll out a vaccination campaign in Haiti continues.
Despite misgivings from a number of experts, health officials in Haiti are pushing forward with a widespread vaccination campaign (see: Cholera vaccine plan splits experts). In Haiti the government is pushing for wide rollout of a major vaccination programme. However, some experts have expressed caution and pushed for a smaller pilot to allow researchers to determine how best to conduct vaccination during established outbreaks.
Now a brace of studies published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases give succour to those pushing vaccination.
In the first, a team led by Anna Lopez of the International Vaccine Institute in Seoul report that killed oral cholera vaccines appeared to offer some protection during a 2007-08 outbreak in Vietnam. In the second paper another team from the institute, led by Rita Reyburn, reports that the use of cholera vaccines during an outbreak in Zimbabwe could have saved 1,695 lives, and concludes that “reactive vaccine use can prevent cholera cases and is a rational response to cholera outbreaks in endemic and non-endemic settings”.
However Andrea Vicari, of the Pan American Health Organization, told SciDev.Net that the Reyburn paper was being unrealistic in assuming that millions of vaccines doses could be ready for use within weeks. Vicari also questions whether the findings apply to Haiti, telling the website, “Haiti’s outbreak is arguably much more explosive than the epidemic case of Zimbabwe modelled in the paper.”
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