Yellow fever outbreak: Low vaccine supply forces WHO to reduce dosage

The World Health Organization plans to use fractional doses of the yellow fever vaccine in certain areas when it conducts an emergency immunization campaign in July to combat the worst yellow fever outbreak seen in parts of Africa in decades, according to the Los Angeles Times.

WHO spokeswoman Sarah Cumberland told the LA Times via email that lowered doses are only being considered for Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo with more than 10 million residents, at this stage in the epidemic.

"The outbreak is still in early stages and it could be an effective way of containing spread with the vaccine doses available," Ms. Cumberland said. "Logistical considerations, such as obtaining suitable syringes and training health workers in this method, mean that dose-fractioning may be easier to implement in an urban setting."

According to the WHO, there have been a 1,106 suspected cases of yellow fever reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 68 confirmed cases and 75 deaths. In Angola, there have been 3,294 suspected cases reported, 861 cases confirmed and 347 deaths.

The global vaccine stockpile has been depleted three times since the beginning of the outbreak in December. Thus far, 15 million vaccines have been given to Angola, 3 million to the Congo and 800,000 to Uganda which is experiencing a surge of yellow fever unrelated to the outbreak that began in Angola.

According to health officials, one-fifth the normal dose of the yellow fever vaccine grants immunity for at least 12 months.

"If we don't respond fast, this has the potential to be a big outbreak with the risk of international spread," said Ms. Cumberland. "The focus is on getting this under control as fast as possible."

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