Millions more "need yellow fever jab in Angola and DRC"

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Dr Bruce Aylward from the World Health Organization, indicating the urban spread of yellow fever in Angola and Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo: UN Photo/Daniel Johnson

A campaign to vaccinate a total of 30 million people against yellow fever is under way in Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo UN health experts confirmed on Thursday.

The World Health Organization (WHO) outlined the plan in Geneva, calling it unprecedented in its scale but necessary, in light of the urban spread of the disease to the capitals of both countries, Luanda and Kinshasa.

Some 15 million people have already had the vaccine in Angola and the DRC, and the ultimate aim is to extend protection to the entire urban population of Africa, an estimated 300 million people.

Daniel Johnson has more.

Yellow fever can be deadly; it comes from the same family as the Ebola virus, which has killed over 11,000 people in West Africa in recent years.

Unlike Ebola, however, a vaccine exists for yellow fever, which was identified in Angola at the end of last year, and then in neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The problem is that unlike previous rural outbreaks, the current episode has taken hold in the capitals of both countries, Luanda and Kinshasa, raising the risk of it spreading outside Africa.

Dr Bruce Aylward is from the World Health Organization:

"What happened with this outbreak is that it got into Luanda, into a small area, took some time for it to be recognized as yellow fever, and then they called for the vaccine, but it was slow enough that the virus could take off in that city and spread nationally."

To date, more than 350 people have died from yellow fever in Angola in the current outbreak.

In the DRC, most of the confirmed infections can be traced back to Angola, but a handful of cases were transmitted locally.

It's this local transmission which WHO wants to stop, hence the mass vaccination programme. More than 15 million people have already had the jab, and the aim is to reach the same number again in coming months.

The UN agency says this will require a huge effort from drug manufacturers to increase production, as well as investment, to fill the US$20 million funding gap.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1’21″






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