November 17, 2009

Yellow Fever Vaccination Campaign Underway In 3 African Countries

The World Health Organization is set to launch the largest-ever vaccination campaign against yellow fever in three African countries.

Next week, WHO, UNICEF, national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, M©decins sans Frontires and other partners will be taking part in a mass vaccination campaign in an effort to help 11.9 million people in Benin, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where the highest risk of yellow fever has been reported.

Agencies taking part in the campaign will also be handing out a package of interventions, such as vitamin A, deworming pills, and a measles vaccine in Sierra Leone.

"High vaccination coverage will prevent outbreaks of yellow fever, a disease that is very difficult to diagnose in the early stages of infection,'' said Dr William Perea, Coordinator of WHO Epidemic Readiness and Intervention unit. "A single dose of the vaccine offers full protection."

Perea said he hopes vaccination campaigns would spread to all high risk African countries by 2015.

According to WHO, yellow fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes. The "yellow" in the name refers to the jaundice that affects some patients.

The disease can result in illness and even death. Up to half of people who become infected with yellow fever will die without treatment.

The disease is endemic in tropical regions of Africa and Latin America. An estimated 508 million people in Africa are at risk, according to WHO.

"Thirty-seven countries in Africa and the Americas have introduced yellow fever vaccine in their routine childhood immunization schedule up from 12 countries a decade ago", said Dr Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele, Director of the Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals at WHO.

"We must finish the job we started to sustain the gains achieved so far," said Dr Edward Hoekstra, UNICEF Senior Health Specialist. "Children and adults in West and Central Africa are unnecessarily affected by yellow fever, when one dose of vaccine would prevent them getting the disease at all."


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