Emergency Yellow Fever Vaccine Supplies To Expire by 2010

Recent outbreaks in Africa and Latin America have diminished the supply of yellow fever vaccines, the WHO said on Tuesday. The current emergency supply will run out by 2010, and there is no funding to continue subsequent immunization campaigns, Reuters reports. Outbreaks in Brazil, the Central African Republic and other countries have used up part of the six million emergency response doses of the vaccine and the WHO’s Yellow Fever Initiative “has no funding for either the emergency stockpile or the continued roll-out of preventive campaigns,” Rosamund Lewis, the initiative’s project leader, said (MacInnis, Reuters, 5/26).

Lewis said that over the past year, there has been a “dramatic upsurge in yellow fever virus circulation in the Central African Republic.” She added that new cases have been identified in countries that “have not seen cases in 40 years or have ever documented cases.” Lewis said that the WHO is short $186 million for vaccination campaigns in Ghana and Nigeria – which are among a group of countries at highest risk for the spread of the disease. “Whereas we’re talking about 186 million to finish Ghana and Nigeria, there are actually 22 countries still at risk in Africa and 11 countries at risk in Latin America after that,” Lewis said (AFP/Yahoo! News, 5/26).

“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,” Edward Hoekstra, UNICEF’s senior health specialist, said (Odebode, Punch, 5/27).

According to a statement issued by the International Coordinating Group on Yellow Fever Vaccine Provision – which includes the WHO, Medecins Sans Frontieres, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and UNICEF – vaccination campaigns still need to be conducted in seven of the 12 “most vulnerable countries in Africa.” Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone are the seven countries where the “threat of yellow fever is highest,” according to the release (WHO release, 5/26).

Each year, there are 206,000 cases of yellow fever, which is caused by a mosquito-transmitted virus. According to WHO estimates, about 52,000 people die of the disease annually (AFP/Yahoo! News, 5/26).