The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has kicked off a preventive yellow fever vaccination campaign targeting more than 16 million people, APA learned on Wednesday.This is the first campaign of its kind against the disease in Africa in 2021. It is being carried out in seven of the country’s 26 provinces with people aged between nine months and 60 years, including nearly 300,000 refugees. “While yellow fever is a dangerous disease, it is easily preventable with just one injection in the arm. This campaign illustrates that by adapting to the new standard, working together and innovating, we can prevent further epidemics and fight Covid-19,” said WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti.
The launch of this campaign took over a year of planning and was partly delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which makes Dr. Moeti say that “dealing with other health emergencies is now doubly tricky, as countries are also working hard to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Although the Democratic Republic of the Congo introduced yellow fever vaccination as part of the national routine immunization program in 2003, the coverage rate remains around 56 percent, below the recommended minimum of 80 percent.
This low coverage rate led to a resurgence of the disease in the country, with six outbreaks that erupted between 2010 and 2019. A major epidemic in neighboring Angola in 2016 spread to the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kinshasa, and in two other provinces.
Yellow fever is caused by a virus transmitted by the bite of infected mosquitoes. Some patients may develop severe symptoms, including high fever and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes).
“We welcome the launch of this preventive vaccination campaign, the mobilization of partner organizations, as well as the population who have taken ownership of the vaccination campaign and are part of the collective efforts to eliminate yellow fever in the country,” said Dr. Luc Alungu, the provincial health minister of Tshopo, one of the seven provinces where vaccination takes place.
The vaccination campaign is part of a comprehensive strategy to eliminate epidemics of yellow fever (EYE) worldwide by 2026.
Beyond vaccination, preventive measures at the national level are also necessary to ensure the protection of the entire threatened population, underlines the WHO said in a statement copied to APA. Rapid detection and response to outbreaks and long-term prevention are integral parts of a sustainable fight against yellow fever, the note continued.
In January, Guinea and Senegal carried out reactive vaccination campaigns against yellow fever after cases were detected. In 2021, in addition to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, the Republic of the Congo and Sudan are to carry out prevention campaigns against yellow fever, targeting a total of 53 million people in the four countries.
The burden of yellow fever in Africa is estimated between 84,000 and 170,000 severe cases and between 29,000 and 60,000 deaths per year. Twenty-seven African countries are the most vulnerable to yellow fever epidemics.