NPR logo
As Cholera Season Bears Down On Haiti, Vaccination Program Stalls
  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
As Cholera Season Bears Down On Haiti, Vaccination Program Stalls

Public Health


Let's go next to Haiti, where the 2010 earthquake is just one of the disasters the country is facing. Cholera broke out in that nation about a year and a half ago, and has been killing people ever since. NPR health correspondent Richard Knox is in Haiti, tracking the latest effort to contain it: a plan to give a vaccine to about 100,000 people. We'll be hearing his stories in the coming weeks on NPR News, and we've got a preview now. Richard is in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince. Hi, Richard.

RICHARD KNOX, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What have you been seeing?

KNOX: Well, we've been traveling from the slums of Port-au-Prince to the remotest villages up in the hills of various parts of Haiti and the rice-growing areas in the valleys north of here, looking at cholera and looking at people's experience of cholera last year during the rainy season - which was about a year ago - and asking people about how do they get their drinking water, what kind of sanitation facilities they have - or actually, more to the point, usually don't have.

INSKEEP: When you talk about rice-growing areas in the Caribbean, I imagine just gorgeous landscape, but terrible suffering in that landscape.

KNOX: Yeah. The rice-growing area of Haiti is lush and green, brilliant emerald green fields of rice, but very, very poor villages. I mean, the rice economy has really imploded, but that's what they've been doing for generations.

INSKEEP: You know, I was talking with your editor, Richard, and he mentioned that he sent you down to Haiti to be there for the start of this vaccine program. But I gather while you're ready to see it, they're not actually ready to do it.

KNOX: No, they're very ready to do it. It's just that there's been some - a big glitch lately that's held it up. There are two medical groups who've been working for most of the past year to vaccinate against cholera. But there's been a controversy about whether it's a medical experiment or not. And so they're having to work through that.

INSKEEP: You know, Richard, people get vaccines by the millions all the time. Why would it be controversial to give a vaccine for cholera?

KNOX: Well, a couple of things. Some people think that the effort should be spent on getting clean water and sanitation. But secondly, there's been concern that this vaccine was experimental, and that's been really just a confusion of timing. Last year when they originally proposed it, this vaccine was not approved by the World Health Organization. Now it is. But lately, people have said this is an experiment. So, they're trying to work that out and make it clear that it's really not an experiment. This is a certified safe and effective vaccine.

INSKEEP: So, this isn't just a question of medicine. It's a question of politics.

KNOX: It is a question of politics, which is often the case here in Haiti.

INSKEEP: So, what are some of the stories we can expect to hear from you in the coming days, Richard?

KNOX: Well, we're also going to report on the basic problem, which is most people don't have access to reliably clean water. And many people we talk to around Haiti know that the water's unsafe. They know that's how they get cholera, and yet they really don't have any choice.

INSKEEP: NPR health correspondent Richard Knox, keeping us up to date on the basics, which are a life or death matter in Haiti. Richard, thanks very much.

KNOX: You're welcome.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.