Vac­cine short­age could spread yel­low fever

Lesotho Times - - Africa -

NEW YORK — A deadly yel­low fever epi­demic that has af­flicted south­ern and cen­tral Africa this year could soon spread world­wide, ex­ac­er­bated by a se­vere vac­cine short­age, the char­ity Save the Chil­dren warned on Tues­day.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion is­sued the warn­ing a day be­fore the be­gin­ning of a mass vac­ci­na­tion cam­paign it is help­ing to ad­min­is­ter in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo, start­ing with the cap­i­tal, Kin­shasa, where about 10 mil­lion peo­ple are at risk.

Be­cause of the vac­cine short­age, just seven mil­lion emer­gency doses are avail­able for the cam­paign, Save the Chil­dren said in its state­ment: “too few to even fully cover Kin­shasa, let alone the whole of the DRC.”

As an emer­gency mea­sure, on the ad­vice of the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion, the doses will be se­verely di­luted to treat five peo­ple in­stead of one, Save the Chil­dren said. The di­luted doses pro­vide a stop­gap im­mu­nity of about one year, as op­posed to life­time im­mu­nity from a full dose.

“We’ve got to ur­gently reach as many chil­dren and fam­i­lies as we can with the sup­plies that are left, and this is the only way we are able to do that right now,” Heather Kerr, the Save the Chil­dren di­rec­tor for the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo, said in the state­ment. “We can only hope this will be enough to stop the epi­demic from spread­ing any fur­ther.”

Ms Kerr added that it was crit­i­cal to start the cam­paign “so that we can try and stop yel­low fever spread­ing by land and air to more cities in Africa and across the world.”

Yel­low fever, a hem­or­rhagic virus spread by the same type of mos­quito that car­ries the Zika virus, has killed nearly 500 peo­ple in An­gola and the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo since De­cem­ber. It is the largest out­break to hit the re­gion in 30 years.

Un­like the deadly Ebola virus, which rav­aged West Africa in 2014 and 2015, yel­low fever is not highly con­ta­gious and can be pre­vented with vac­cines that were de­vel­oped decades ago. But a lim­ited num­ber of com­pa­nies make the vac­cines, and the spread of the epi­demic has far out­stripped the sup­ply.the As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported this month that the vac­cine short­age had been wors­ened by the mys­te­ri­ous dis­ap­pear­ance of a mil­lion doses shipped to An­gola in Fe­bru­ary.

Once in­fected, vic­tims ex­peri- ence fever and mus­cle pain. While many re­cover, oth­ers can suf­fer jaun­dice, in­ter­nal bleed­ing, delir­ium and death. The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion has cal­cu­lated that the mor­tal­ity rate for peo­ple who de­velop the more se­vere symp­toms is as high as 50 per­cent.

— NY Times

Res­i­dents of the Kisenso dis­trict of Kin­shasa, demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo, re­ceived yel­low fever vac­ci­na­tions last month.

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