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More funding urged for yellow fever vaccine stockpile

News release

The International Coordinating Group (ICG) on Yellow Fever Vaccine Provision is warning that the global emergency stockpile of yellow fever vaccine for the world’s most vulnerable populations in Africa is under threat.

The current stockpile will run out in 2010 and there is no funding to cover vaccination campaigns once the stockpile is depleted. Most children and adults in five of the 12 most vulnerable countries in Africa 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 public health experts.

"We have to finish the job we started or the good work that has been done will be lost,” said Dr Edward Hoekstra, UNICEF Senior Health Specialist, speaking from New York. "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.”

Dr William Perea, WHO coordinator for the Epidemic Readiness and Intervention said the yellow fever initiative is feeling the effects of the global financial crisis.

"As we look beyond 2009, we already see serious funding constraints. Although yellow fever vaccine production has tripled since 2001, the roll-out of the programme is limited by insufficient supply of vaccine for 2009,” said Dr Perea.

The five countries that have completed vaccination campaigns so far are Togo, Mali, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Cameroon, which received funding from the International Finance Facility for Immunization (IFFIm), through the GAVI Alliance. 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, adding that close cooperation among all partners has been effective in supporting national governments to successfully implement the vaccination campaigns.

"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. "This is something we had hoped to resolve by 2015.”

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 estimates, 206 000 cases and 52 000 deaths occur every year.

The recent campaigns in Burkina Faso and Cameroon benefited more than 95% of the vulnerable populations targeted. Burkina Faso vaccinated 7.6 million people in 33 districts and Cameroon completed a vaccination campaign for 7.5 million people in 62 districts. Seven other African countries where the threat of yellow fever is highest are Benin, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Liberia, Guinea, Ghana, and Cote d'Ivoire.

Members of the ICG, including WHO, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), met on 12-13 May to assess recent yellow fever vaccination campaigns and discuss future actions.

For more information please contact:

Aphaluck Bhatiasevi
WHO Media Officer, Geneva
Telephone: +41 79 484 2997
E-mail: bhatiaseviap@who.int

Christian Moen
UNICEF Media, New York
Telephone: +1 212 326 7516
E-mail: cmoen@unicef.org

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