The world’s first multi-country yellow fever vaccination campaign began on 23 November, with 12 million people targeted across Benin, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The push comes as the killer mosquito-borne disease is resurging in some sub-Saharan African countries and vaccine stocks are running low.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says 160 million Africans are at risk if further funding is not secured, as the current vaccine stockpile is expected to run out in 2010.
The three countries are the latest of the 13 most at-risk– Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo – to carry out preventive campaigns. Global health partnership GAVI Alliance has committed funding for campaigns in the 13 countries.
WHO, UN Children’s Fund, national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and NGOs such as Médecins sans Frontières are supporting the current campaign.
All citizens except children under nine months and pregnant women will receive a vaccine that protects for 10 years, Liberian Health Minister Walter Gwenigale told reporters at the campaign launch in the capital Monrovia on 21 November. In Liberia yellow fever cases have increased annually for the past nine years, according to the Health Ministry.
Yellow fever has no cure and WHO says vaccination is the single most important measure for preventing the disease. To prevent outbreaks vaccination coverage must reach at least 60 percent to 80 percent of a population at risk, WHO says.
Yellow fever cases have increased over the past two decades due to declining immunity to infection, climate change, urbanization, population movements and climate change, says WHO.
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