Congo says aims to vaccinate 11.6M against yellow fever

A campaign to vaccinate 11.6 million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo against yellow fever will start on July 20, the health minister said on Monday. Health Minister Felix Kabange said the aim was to cover everyone in the capital Kinshasa and the provinces of Kwango, Lualaba and Kasai, except children under 9 months. The campaign follows moves by the World Health Organization to begin emergency vaccination campaigns along the border between Angola and Congo amid the worst yellow fever outbreak in decades that already is blamed for more than 400 deaths. The vaccination efforts next month also will focus on the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, where experts fear the disease could quickly spread in congested neighbourhoods. The outbreak has led to cases in Kenya and China as well, via travellers.

While WHO is working with partners and vaccine manufacturers to increase vaccine production and replenish the emergency stockpile currently being used for this outbreak, it is vital to interrupt transmission, especially in cross-border areas to rapidly bring this outbreak under control and halt further international spread.

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa

Yellow fever is spread mostly by mosquitos, and it is common in many tropical parts of Africa and Central and South America. WHO estimates about 15 percent of people who are exposed develop fever and jaundice. The death rate is as high as 50 percent in people with severe symptoms such as kidney complications. The emergency yellow fever vaccine stockpile has already been depleted twice this year since February, and it can take up to a year to produce more of the vaccine. WHO says it plans to spend more than $72 million to combat yellow fever, $60 million of it for vaccination efforts.