Mind & Body
Perhaps for Lack of Trust, Haitian Officials Rejected Cholera Vaccinations
- Monday, July 11, 2011 12:48 PM
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - A Dutch pharmaceuticals company is claiming that tens of thousands of doses of a cholera vaccine offered to the Haitian government in the early stages of the cholera epidemic was rejected. Public perception and misinformation is suggesting that a lack of trust may have led to the rejection of the donation.
The donation, on the order of tens of thousands of doses, was expected to stymie the spread of the disease by what is called, â€śring fencingâ€ť or vaccinating Haitians living in the remote region of Artibonite where the disease was first diagnosed in late October 2010.
The CEO of Crucell, Ronald Brus, told the press that he had proposed a significant donation of his company's vaccine, about a month after the outbreak was identified, but was turned down by health officials.
In the early stages of the cholera outbreak many Haitians had suspected the United Nations responsibility for the outbreak. The disease hadn't been detected in Haiti for generations and the rapid spread of infections surprised many experts with experience with the disease.
It is suspected that a lack of trust could have led to the rejection of the vaccine donation from Crucell. Many social and economic ailments that Haiti has experienced in the past 30 years have been attributed to international aid which have panned out to be no more than international interests.
Executives at Crucell said in the Financial Times that "Haitian officials were under intense pressure to tackle multiple crises with scant resources following the earthquake in January last year which killed more than 230,000 people."
Peter Graaff of the World Health Organization, told the press that he was not aware of any specific offer from Crucell but there was a broad decision taken by the Haitian government to reject proposals for cholera vaccinations.
Paul Farmer, co-founder of Partners in Health, described Haitian officials as minimalists and relunctant, especially in these circumstances in which officials were opposed.
Jon Weigel also of Partners in Health, said the rejection was justified at the time by concerns over the social tensions that could be sparked by distributing limited quantities only to some Haitians.
The Financial Times reported that a number of health charities oppose drug and vaccine donations, arguing that they are not sustainable and reduce the chance of low cost generic competition.
Researchers from the University of California and Harvard Medical School found that a United Nations report, released in November of 2010, to be inaccurate in that it grossly underestimated the cholera epidemic in Haiti. This report from the world organization was damaging in that necessary provisions were not budgeted to address the disease.
In November of 2010 the United Nations had claimed it had conducted tests around a suspected base-camp that locals had claimed to be the source of the outbreak. The U.N. reported nearby waters to be negative for cholera.
Contrarily, in recent weeks numerous studies, including one from the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have found that the source of the disease to be a United Nations base that was discharging waste into the fresh water stream that residents along the Artibonite river used.
Haitian officials and community leaders have called on the United Nations to claim responsibility to begin addressing the problem more effectively. To date, the United Nations has not claimed responsibility for the cholera epidemic.