- Title: Haiti launches massive cholera vaccination drive but worries remain
- Date: 9th November 2016
- Summary: PEOPLE WORKING WITH ONE MISSION SOCIETY WORKING WITH CHOLERA PATIENTS OMS DOCTOR, JEAN LUC PONCELET UNICEF REPRESENTATIVE ON THE SCENE
- Embargoed: 24th November 2016 21:47
- Keywords: Haiti cholera Les Cayes Hurricane Matthew vaccinationas
- Location: LES CAYES, HAITI
- City: LES CAYES, HAITI
- Country: Haiti
- Topics: Health/Medicine
- Reuters ID: LVA00257Q8QWZ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Haiti has launched a massive cholera vaccination campaign to battle a flare-up after Hurricane Matthew, but concerns remain about the capacity for longer-term improvements to water and sanitation infrastructure needed to eradicate the disease.
The cholera campaign, launched on Tuesday (November 8) in two southern areas hammered by the storm, is aiming to be the world's largest, targeting 820,000 people.
Haiti has battled a cholera outbreak that has sickened more than 800,000 people and killed about 9,000 since 2010, when the bacteria was imported into the country by a contingent of United Nations peacekeepers.
Although it had proved stubborn to eradicate, cases had declined sharply from a peak in 2010-11.
But Hurricane Matthew struck the island in early October, killing up to 1,000 people, leaving about 1.4 million in need of humanitarian assistance and damaging many health facilities. The storm largely destroyed much of the southwestern region's already meagre water and sanitation infrastructure, leaving it ripe for a cholera outbreak, experts say.
Haiti's Ministry of Health reports that there had been 1,200 suspected cholera cases since the hurricane hit, a sharp increase since the region had previously had fewer cases than other areas of the country. In total, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says there have been 3,500 suspected cholera cases since the hurricane.
In the Immaculate Conception Hospital of the port town of Les Cayes, 19 people suspected of having cholera were hooked up to IVs and lay on hospital bed frames.
Marie Wilnine Gaetan, the head nurse of a rapid-response team, said that the region had not seen so many cases since the disease was first spotted in Haiti.
"There were 35 patients. We released five of them. Now there are 28 left and we just received four new cases. We now have 32 patients," she said.
The campaign will mark the first time that so many people will be given only one dose of the cholera vaccine. Normally, the vaccine is given in two doses.
A previous initiative conducted by Doctors Without Borders in South Sudan found that a single dose of the cholera vaccine proved to be extremely effective at boosting immunity, according to a study published in medical journal The Lancet in November.
Officials at the campaign launch were careful to stress the vaccine was not intended to be the only tool to fight cholera in the region.
"Eradicating cholera is a long term plan because the eradication of cholera should include the reinforcement of the sanitary infrastructures and the people should have access to safe water," said Daphnee Benoit Delsoin, the Minister of Health. "That is to say, it is a very long struggle."
The two-dose vaccine lasts for two years, according to the United Kingdom's National Health Service, but it is not known exactly how long the single dose lasts.
Doctor Jean Luc Poncelet of One Mission Society explained they were trying to get everyone vaccinated by mid-November.
"We want to make sure that we carry out this (vaccination) campaign before November 20. We, OPS/OMS, want to guarantee that the necessary support is carried out under the best possible conditions. Everyone's support is indispensable that way together we guarantee that the people are not confronted with a violent cholera," he said.
Despite officials' enthusiasm, some residents were angry that help had taken a month to arrive.
"I think the campaign has come too late because so many people have already died in the southern department because of cholera especially those who did not have access to a health centre in their community. Maybe if the state had been quicker with these medications, more lives would have been saved."
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