Comparing alternative cholera vaccination strategies in Maela refugee camp: using a transmission model in public health practice.


Our analyses suggest that vaccination in conjunction with ongoing water sanitation and hygiene efforts provides an effective strategy for controlling cholera outbreaks in refugee camps. Effective preexposure vaccination depends on timing and effectiveness. If a camp is facing an outbreak, delayed distribution of vaccines can substantially alter the effectiveness of reactive vaccination, suggesting that quick distribution of vaccines may be more important than ensuring every individual receives both vaccine doses. Overall, this analysis illustrates how mathematical models can be applied in public health practice, to assist in evaluating alternative intervention strategies and inform decision-making.

We formulated a Susceptible-Infectious-Water-Recovered-based transmission model and estimated parameters using incidence data from 2010. We next evaluated the reduction in cases conferred by several immunization strategies, varying timing, effectiveness, and resources (i.e., vaccine availability). After the vaccine campaign, we generated case forecasts for the next year, to inform on-the-ground decision-making regarding whether a booster campaign was needed.

We found that preexposure vaccination can substantially reduce the risk of cholera even when <50% of the population is given the full two-dose series. Additionally, the preferred number of doses per person should be considered in the context of one vs. two dose effectiveness and vaccine availability. For reactive vaccination, a trade-off between timing and effectiveness was revealed, indicating that it may be beneficial to give one dose to more people rather than two doses to fewer people, given that a two-dose schedule would incur a delay in administration of the second dose. Forecasting using realistic coverage levels predicted that there was no need for a booster campaign in 2014 (consistent with our predictions, there was not a cholera epidemic in 2014).

Cholera is a major public health concern in displaced-person camps, which often contend with overcrowding and scarcity of resources. Maela, the largest and longest-standing refugee camp in Thailand, located along the Thai-Burmese border, experienced four cholera outbreaks between 2005 and 2010. In 2013, a cholera vaccine campaign was implemented in the camp. To assist in the evaluation of the campaign and planning for subsequent campaigns, we developed a mathematical model of cholera in Maela.

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