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Monday 24th October 2016

Yellow fever fight gets funding

17th May 2007

Immunisation campaigns in a dozen West African countries will receive additional funding with the launch of a Yellow Fever Initiative backed by a US$58 million contribution from the GAVI Alliance, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.


The mosquito-borne viral disease made a comeback during the 1990s after near total eradication with the mass vaccination campaigns of the 1940s and 1960s.

Now, an estimated 30,000 people die each year of the disease, out of about 200,000 cases, the WHO said, and urban outbreaks are becoming more common.

"Yellow fever [has] returned as a major scourge and, as urbanization progresses across Africa, the threat of a major epidemic looms ever larger," the UN health agency said in a statement on its website.

"This highly transmissible disease could infect around one third of the urban population, or up to 4.5 million people, in Lagos, Nigeria alone," it said.

The GAVI Alliance grant will mean that immunization against yellow fever will be kick-started once more. Over the next four years, the world's 12 highest-burden countries, all of which are in West Africa, will be able to implement special vaccination campaigns to immunize more than 48 million people, WHO said.

Officials said the initiative was groundbreaking, because existing routine immunisation programmes target only children, taking too long to reduce the risk of epidemics and the spread of the disease internationally.

The initiative aims to vaccinate at-risk populations, quickly reducing the risk of outbreaks that could threaten the region and the world.

Yellow fever is a particularly dangerous disease which kills up to 50% of those with severe illness. Every age group is at risk, and vaccination is a crucial weapon to prevent cases and epidemics. But vaccines have until now proved too expensive for some countries, and coverage rates in the highest-risk countries- Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo - are critically low, experts say.

Coverage rates are recommended of at least 60-80% of the at-risk population. But in Nigeria, the coverage rate in 2005 was just 36%.

A recent vaccination campaign already financed by GAVI in Togo has vaccinated more than 1.5 million people, preventing an epidemic. A similar campaign was then conducted in two districts in southern Togo after two cases of yellow fever had been reported there at the end of January.

GAVI's grant to the Yellow Fever Initiative will help create a stockpile of 11 million doses of vaccine.

Yellow fever is an acute, haemorrhagic, viral disease that is transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes. Infection may result in anywhere from no to severe illness; 20–50% of those with severe illness will die of the disease. There is no known specific antiviral therapy, although the disease can be prevented by the "17D" vaccine, which provides immunity for at least 10 years.

Yellow fever is endemic in tropical regions of Africa and South America, where 44 countries (33 in Africa and 11 in South America) are considered to be at risk. Currently, 610 million people are considered to be at risk from the disease in Africa.


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