Abidjan/Brazzaville, 8 September 2008 - The city of Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire can once again be considered safe from a Yellow Fever epidemic after the national Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF nongovernmental organizations and others in the Yellow Fever Partnership combined their forces to vaccinate over 2.2 million people in the Ivorian capital.

In a campaign which lasted 14 days and finished on Friday 5 September,, vaccine financed by the GAVI Alliance was distributed to points across the capital, and administered by trained health teams.

By ensuring that over 2.2 million non-vaccinated people out of a total population of approximately 5 million in the capital received their Yellow Fever (YF) vaccination, YF vaccination coverage rates were brought up to levels in the city where the entire population can be expected to be protected against epidemics.

It is estimated that at least 60-80% of a given population has to be vaccinated for epidemics to be obviated in the entire population. Prior to this vaccination campaign, the last YF vaccination campaign in Abidjan had taken place in 2001, achieving a coverage rate above 90%. But vaccination coverage rates were estimated to have slipped down to 60% in the intervening years, due to population movements and births.

"This was a team effort from start to finish. The GAVI Alliance financed the vaccine and equipment, the International Coordinating Group for Yellow Fever provided the vaccine, the Ministry of Health provided the manpower, logistics and participated economically to cover 50% of the operational costs and above all the will to stop this urban outbreak in its tracks, and local and international organizations contributed their time and expertise to ensure that all steps in the process were completed successfully. As a result we have now protected a major urban centre - and perhaps larger areas - against the possibility of an epidemic," said Dr. Yada Adamou, WHO's African Regional Focal Point for Epidemic and Pandemic Alert and Response.

This emergency campaign comes as the Yellow Fever Initiative, with $58 million worth of support from GAVI, is continuing its mass vaccination programmes across West Africa aimed at drastically reducing the numbers at risk from Yellow Fever. So far, three countries - Mali, Senegal and Togo - have undertaken national preventive vaccination campaigns as part of the Initiative, with other countries due to follow suit as soon as sufficient vaccine is available.

"Vaccination is instrumental in preventing cases and epidemics of this killer disease" said Dr Nina Schwalbe, Deputy Executive Secretary at the GAVI Alliance. "With the Yellow Fever Initiative, affected countries like Côte d'Ivoire have an exceptional opportunity, and responsibility, to protect their populations. GAVI is committed to working with all our partners, both globally and in the field, to bring life-saving vaccines to the populations at risk."

Yellow Fever is an acute, haemorrhagic, viral disease - transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes. Infection may result in no illness, equally illness may range from mild to severe; 20-50% of those with severe illness will die of the disease. There is no known specific antiviral therapy against YF, although the disease can be prevented by the YF vaccine, which provides immunity for at least 10 years.

Because of its severity, even a single case is a public health concern. Yellow Fever is endemic in tropical regions of Africa and South America where 47 countries (33 in Africa and 14 in South America) are considered to be at-risk.

This press released was issued by WHO, which is a member of the GAVI Alliance 

The 12 countries taking part on the Yellow Fever Initiative are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. 

The ministries of Health of these 12 countries are being supported financially and technically by a Yellow Fever partnership which was launched in February 2006 and now includes WHO, UNICEF, GAVI, Médecins Sans Frontières, IFRC, the Association pour la Médecine Préventive (AMP), the Programme for Appropriate Technology (PATH), the European Union Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO), the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) and the Institut Pasteur. The partnership continues to take on new members. 

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