UN agencies seek funds for yellow fever vaccine stockpile

Yellow fever vaccination drive in Burkina Faso (file photo)

26 May 2009 – United Nations agencies and their partners are appealing for funds to replenish the global emergency supply of yellow fever vaccine, warning that if stocks run out by next year as expected, the disease could break out in the poorest countries.

Most children and adults in five of the 12 most vulnerable African countries are now protected from contracting yellow fever thanks to recent vaccination campaigns, but without further funding millions of people will still be at risk of the disease, according to a news release issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Both WHO and UNICEF are part of the International Coordinating Group on Yellow Fever Vaccine, which warned that there is no funding to cover vaccination campaigns once the present stockpile is depleted.

“We have to finish the job we started or the good work that has been done will be lost,” said Dr. Edward Hoekstra of UNICEF. “If the stockpile of yellow fever vaccine is allowed to run out, countries that have not yet been reached by immunization campaigns will be unfairly burdened with the disease.”

The five countries that have completed vaccination campaigns so far are Togo, Mali, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Cameroon. There have been no outbreaks in those countries since the vaccination campaigns were completed.

Dr. Hoekstra said there is a need to further roll out the programme to protect the remaining 150 million children and adults still at risk for the disease in the region.

“If we do not sustain this programme, yellow fever outbreaks will continue to affect populations who can least afford it,” said Dr. Fenella Avokey of the WHO African Regional Office.

Yellow fever is caused by a virus transmitted by mosquitoes. The disease is endemic in forest areas and people are at greatest risk at the end of the rainy season. According to WHO, an estimated 206,000 cases and 52,000 deaths occur every year.

The International Coordinating Group also includes Médecins Sans Frontières and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

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