A yellow fever vaccination campaign has started in Senegal to immunize more than three million people in 22 districts. The campaign is part of a larger initiative to vaccinate 48 million people across West Africa against the potentially fatal viral disease. For VOA, Jade Heilmann has more from Dakar.

Vaccination posts have been set up in Senegal in schools, clinics, and places with easy public access to reach the maximum number of people.

The campaign will continue to 12 high risk countries in West and Central Africa.

This is the first preventive West African-wide vaccination campaign in 40 years.

It was made possible by the joint effort of a number of partners including the Geneva-based Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, which donated $63 million to the program. Others partners include the World Health Organization, the children's fund UNICEF, and French-based Doctors Without Borders.

Malang Coly, from the World Health Organization Senegal office, explains the importance of the campaign.

He says yellow fever practically disappeared in the 1950s due to vaccination campaigns at the time, but started to re-emerge in the 80s followed by an epidemic in 2002.

According to the WHO current coverage rate, meaning how many people are vaccinated, is at 46 percent in some districts of Senegal, making the country vulnerable to an epidemic.

It is these 22 districts, spread across six different regions which are currently being targeted.

Yellow fever is an acute often fatal, hemorrhagic, viral disease. It is transmitted to humans by infected mosquitos.

Papa Coumba Faye, director of medical prevention at the Senegal Ministry of Health, says the goal of the current program is to control the outbreak of epidemics, especially urban epidemics which spread quickly.

Faye says regular programs already vaccinates children from birth to 11 months, but that such massive drives with older children can help make sure yellow fever does not become a major problem again.