International health organizations warn stockpiles of yellow fever vaccines are running out and this is putting millions of the world's most vulnerable people under threat. The organizations, which include the World Health Organization and UN Children's Fund, say they need more money to carry out life-saving immunization campaigns in Africa and Latin America next year.
The health organizations say the current stockpile of Yellow Fever vaccines is scheduled to run out in 2010. Rosamund Lewis is Project Leader for the Yellow Fever Initiative at the World Health Organization. She says there is no money to cover immunization campaigns once the stockpile is depleted. "We have a highly effective vaccine. It has been around since 1939. It confers long-lasting immunity. And, it still costs less than one dollar a dose. So, in short, it is still one of the best public health bargains we have available to us," she said.
But, the problem is money. Lewis says the WHO and UNICEF Yellow Fever Control Program in West Africa needs $186 million dollars for preventive vaccination campaigns next year. She says the health groups are planning to vaccinate millions of people in 12 African countries, but only has funding for ten countries.
"The two countries that are not funded are Ghana and Nigeria. However, we have also seen a dramatic upsurge of Yellow Fever virus circulation in the Republique Centrale Africain (Central African Republic), which has had a number of cases in the past year. We are seeing new cases in countries both in Africa and in Latin America that have not seen cases in 40 years or have ever documented cases," she said.
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, more than 200,000 cases and 52,000 deaths occur every year.
The World Health Organization says so far, vaccination campaigns have been completed in Togo, Mali, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Cameroon. It notes there have been no outbreaks of Yellow Fever in those countries since the campaigns ended.