Potential impact of reactive vaccination in controlling cholera outbreaks: An exploratory analysis using a Zimbabwean experience

September 14, 2011

Cholera is endemic in many countries in Africa and South Asia, and there have been several minor and major outbreaks reported in both regions. A recent large-scale cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe has demonstrated how a preventable and easily treatable disease can lead to disastrous outcomes in settings with weak health infrastructure and where the availability and access to basic water/sanitation is suboptimal. While there have been several studies that evaluated the impact of pre-emptive vaccination using oral cholera vaccination in endemic countries, the impact of reactive vaccination for containing ongoing breaks has rarely been documented. In order to provide potential stakeholder and policy makers with more information on the value of cholera vaccination, former CHDS researcher Sun Young-Kim and current CHDS Director Sue J. Goldie explored the potential impact of reactive vaccination using the recent outbreak in Zimbabwe. Their analysis, recently published in the South African Medical Journal, suggests that reactive vaccination has the potential to be a cost-effective measure in controlling cholera outbreaks in some vulnerable countries. However, the finding also show that the outcomes can vary widely, and caution is warranted when applying the findings to different settings, and some future clinical and economic evaluation studies may help policy makers refine this approach.