As some project that Haiti will be hit with another 200,000 cholera infections in the next three months, experts from Harvard Medical School, George Washington University and the International Vaccine Institute are urging the U.S. to stockpile cholera vaccines. According to the experts, who wrote a perspective article in the New England Journal of Medicine, the costs are low, especially compared to the benefits for those inoculated.
Over 1,415 people have died in Haiti during the cholera outbreak, which swept the nation last month. Although there are three cholera vaccines (one has been approved by the WHO), manufacturers only have 500,000 doses available; over 1.3 million people currently live in Port-au-Prince, Haiti's refugee camps. "If the vaccine were available now, it could still be delivered to as-yet-unaffected parts of Haiti in time to stabilize the country," wrote Matthew Waldor, a cholera researcher at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Peter Hotez president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute in Washington DC, and John Clemens, head of the International Vaccine Institute in Seoul.
But other experts question the efficacy of cholera vaccines in a widespread outbreak like Haiti's. According to Declan Butler, the vaccine's impact would have been slight. "Two doses of the vaccines [Dukoral or Shanchol] have to be given a fortnight apart, with protective immunity taking another week to form," he writes in a Nature blog post. "Mounting a large vaccination campaign also causes inevitable delays."