SOUTH SUDAN—The Ministry of Health, in conjunction with the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, and other partners, has launched a reactive Yellow Fever vaccine campaign as part of a preventative strategy.

This is in response to the verified yellow fever epidemic on December 24, 2023, which involved two laboratory-confirmed cases in Western Equatoria State.

This program will reach roughly 610,000 people aged nine months to 65 years in Yambio, Tambura Ezo, Ibba, and Maridi.

 This immunization campaign will use doses obtained from the International Coordination Group’s (ICG) Global Emergency Yellow Fever Vaccine Stockpile, which is funded by Gavi financing.

Yellow fever, an acute viral hemorrhagic disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes, is a serious public health risk.

The disease is characterized by symptoms such as fever, headache, jaundice, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, and exhaustion, and it can develop to serious consequences, with nearly half of patients dying within 7 to 10 days.

Yellow fever is avoided by a vaccination that is both safe and economical, and a single dose of yellow fever vaccine is enough to provide lifelong protection.

Yellow fever is endemic in 34 African nations and 13 Central and South American countries as of 2023.

Furthermore, a modelling study based on African data sources projected the impact of yellow fever during 2013 at 84,000–170,000 severe cases and 29,000–60,000 deaths.

As of February 3, 2024, 48 suspected and two confirmed Yellow Fever cases had been reported in Western Equatoria State’s Yambio, Nzara, Tambura, Ibba, Ezo, and Maridi counties.

The Honourable Yolanda Awel Deng, Minister of Health, stated at the campaign’s launch that addressing the outbreak requires a multidisciplinary team of epidemiologists, public health officers, entomologists, laboratory specialists, and risk communication experts to conduct an extensive epidemiological investigation.

The investigation will more fully assess the outbreak’s scope, identify risk/exposure factors, and adopt control and prevention measures.

Dr Humphrey Karamagi, WHO Representative for South Sudan, stressed that the yellow fever vaccine program is consistent with the global objective to Eliminate Yellow Fever Epidemics (EYE) by 2026.

This reactive strategy aims to protect high-risk individuals and serve as a bridge to incorporating the yellow fever vaccine into normal immunization programs.

UNICEF South Sudan Representative, Hamida Lasseko, underlined the need to stop the outbreak and prevent new infections through immunization.

Leseeko is optimistic that the deployment of vaccines and accompanying supplies and equipment, together with educated health professionals and sensitized populations, can safeguard the afflicted children and communities.

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