1Billion Africans To Get Yellow Fever Protection By 2026
- Written by Oluwafemi Olowookere
Nearly one billion people will be vaccinated against yellow fever in 27 high –risk African countries by 2026 with support from the World Health Organisation (WHO), Gavi – the Vaccine Alliance, UNICEF and more than 50 health partners.
The Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole made this known at a regional launch of Eliminate Yellow Fever Epidemics (EYE) by the WHO Director-General (DG), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in Abuja.
According to him, Nigeria is currently responding to an outbreak of the disease and is conducting its largest Yellow fever vaccination drive ever, targeting more than 25 million people in 2018.
To this end, Adewole said ‘’ For us, eliminating Yellow Fever is a matter of life and death as such we will continue with routine immunization which had been introduced since 2004.Nigeria is committed to ending Yellow fever epidemics thus we hope to reach 90% coverage in key areas ensuring that population immunity prevents the disease from creating a devastating outbreaks’’
Adewole noted that these immediate responses include surveillance, laboratory confirmation and reactive vaccination which had all been carried out in partnership with WHO at all levels. This, he said prevented an outbreak taking hold in Nigeria, indicating that effective Yellow fever surveillance and outbreak response could prevent large outbreaks.
The Minister also stated that representatives at the three-day EYE launch would develop a roadmap on how to roll-out the EYE strategy to cover the entire country in less than seven years national level. This implementation effort, according to Adewole, follows the endorsement of the strategy by Africa Ministers of Health at the 67th WHO regional committee in September 2017.
He cited limited number of accredited laboratories for diagnosis of Yellow fever in the country considering the population at risk and the need to send samples to Dakar Senegal for final confirmation as the major surveillance challenges.
The Minister therefore appealed for a WHO confirmed laboratory to be sited in Nigeria which he said required ‘’more political action than political will’’
In his speech, the DG, Dr. Tedro Ghebreyesus said ‘’the world is facing an increased risk of Yellow fever outbreaks and Africa is particularly vulnerable. With one injection we can protect a person for life against this dangerous pathogen. The unprecedented commitment by countries will ensure that by 2026, Africa is free of Yellow fever epidemics’’
Dr. Tedro hinted that the three objectives of the strategy include protecting at-risk populations through preventive mass vaccination campaign and routine immunisation programmes, preventing international spread and containing outbreaks. He added that rapidly developing strong surveillance with robust laboratory networks is key to these efforts.
Also speaking, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said rapid containment of outbreaks is essential to ensure they do not amplify into devastating epidemics. She advised that reactive vaccination programs should be part of the outbreak response as well as surveillance strengthening to enhance early detection of cases, vector control and community mobilization.
To this end Dr. Moeti informed that the strategy would involve the participation of disease prevention and control directors, epidemiological surveillance officers from 14 yellow fever high risk countries in Africa, prioritized by their need for preventive vaccination drives throughout the EYE strategy.