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WHO To Launch Yellow Fever Vaccination Campaign In West Africa

The WHO on Tuesday announced it would lead a week-long, multi-country vaccination campaign in Africa next week to protect those “deemed at highest risk from yellow fever,” Reuters reports. The vaccination drive will target nearly 12 million Africans living in Benin, Liberia and Sierra Leone – all countries at high risk of yellow fever outbreaks (Nebehay/MacInnis, 11/17).

“[T]he campaign will have local health teams administer the vaccinations and offer a package of pre-emptive measures, including vitamin A, deworming tablets and, in the case of Sierra Leone, additionally administer measles vaccine,” AfricaNews reports (Cham, 11/18).

“About 30,000 people die every year from [yellow fever], which is carried by mosquitoes. Its most virulent form can kill more than 50 percent of those infected,” Agence France-Presse reports. The WHO “has blamed deforestation, urban growth, climate change and low levels of immunisation for a resurgence of the disease in recent years, mainly in South America and in Africa” (11/17).

“High vaccination coverage will prevent outbreaks of yellow fever, a disease that is very difficult to diagnose in the early stages of infection,” said William Perea, coordinator of the WHO Epidemic Readiness and Intervention Unit, Xinhua/People’s Daily Online reports. A single dose of the yellow fever vaccine provides full protection against the virus, he added (11/18).

“With help from a $103 million donation from the GAVI Alliance – a vaccine-financing partnership that includes WHO, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Bank and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – a total of 29 million people have been protected through mass vaccinations programmes since 2007 conducted in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Mali, Senegal and Togo, as well as a first phase completed in Sierra Leone” UN News Centre reports. (11/17).

WHO says additional funding is needed to vaccinate an estimated 160 million more people in Africa at high-risk for yellow fever, SAPA/Times Live reports (11/18).