News

High Yellow Fever Risk Prompts Mass Vaccination in Sierra Leone

Part of immunization program in three West African countries including Liberia and Benin

A health worker administers a yellow fever vaccine to a baby on a roadside in Abidjan, Ivory Coast after a case was discovered of yellow fever (File)
A health worker administers a yellow fever vaccine to a baby on a roadside in Abidjan, Ivory Coast after a case was discovered of yellow fever (File)
Fid Thompson

Sierra Leone has launched a week-long campaign to immunize its entire population against yellow fever after cases were recorded last year in two districts.  The effort is part of a program to immunize people in three West African countries, including Liberia and Benin.

One year-old Abdulay Kuyatay is not impressed with the pinch of his yellow fever shot at a Red Cross vaccination post in downtown Freetown.

A health worker administers a yellow fever vaccine to a baby on a roadside in Abidjan, Ivory Coast after a case was discovered of yellow fever (File)
A health worker administers a yellow fever vaccine to a baby on a roadside in Abidjan, Ivory Coast after a case was discovered of yellow fever (File)

Kuyatay is one of more than four million Sierra Leoneans targeted for a free ten-year vaccine against the disease this week.

Amara Jambai is director of disease prevention and control at the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health.  He says the campaign is the first of its kind.

"Sierra Leone is one of the countries with the highest risk, Liberia and then Benin. So we are doing this campaign so as to minimize the risk of having a full-blown outbreak of yellow fever," Jambai said.

Jambai says after cases of yellow fever showed up in November 2008 in the forested Southern regions of Bo and Kenema, the government acted quickly to protect the entire population.

Yellow fever is a viral disease affecting the liver and kidneys, causing high fever and a yellowing of the skin and eyes.  It is transmitted by infected mosquitoes and is endemic to many West African countries.  More than 200,000 people die of yellow fever every year.  Although there is no cure, the vaccine is relatively cheap and highly effective.

Jambai says it was difficult to get hold of so many vaccines so quickly.

"The initial campaign was in five districts in May and this is the second part of that campaign now, because the population we are targeting were so many. Now, during this present campaign, we are targeting about 2.4-million people, including the Western Urban - and you can imagine what it is like in this capital, Freetown, bursting with a lot of activities," Jambai said.

Haja Kutulmi Karim is health coordinator at Sierra Leone's Red Cross Society, which is assisting the government with the campaign.  She says it is an enormous task to make sure everyone comes to get their vaccination.

"We were able to train 300 volunteers who are doing house-to-house visits to mobilize people and tell them about the vaccine and its importance," said Karim.

On the streets of Freetown, people carry square yellow cards proving their immunization.  Radio spots and posters encourage everyone, except pregnant women and children under nine months, to go to their nearest vaccination post.

Dr. Jambai hopes to achieve complete coverage.

"The vaccine gives protection for about ten years. So, if we are able to get a high proportion of the people vaccinated -- let us say 95 percent and above -- then it gives you some sort of immunity of the general population," Jambai said.

In an attempt to control the spread of the disease, travelers to Sierra Leone must show proof of yellow fever immunization at the border.  Jambai says it is difficult to eradicate yellow fever completely, but mass vaccination is a step in the right direction.

At the downtown Red Cross post, little Abdulay Kuyatay gets a bonus measles shot in his other arm.  His mother, Yabom Turay, rubs his shoulder.

Turay says she will do anything to help prevent her young son from getting sick.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs