Republic of the Congo to vaccinate more than 4 million people against yellow fever

By Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance

Republic of the Congo to vaccinate more than 4 million people against yellow fever

The Republic of the Congo has launched a preventive mass vaccination campaign that aims to vaccinate more than 93% of the population against yellow fever. The campaign, which begins, will target over 4 million people in 11 out of the 12 departments across the country. Congo has set a goal of achieving national coverage of more than 95%.

More than 13,800 health professionals are mobilized through the Government of Congo for the seven-day campaign, which is supported by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, UNICEF, WHO, and partners. A successful campaign will help prevent outbreaks of yellow fever, and enable strengthened surveillance systems that can search for and quickly identify cases. Pointe Noire is the only department that will not be involved in this mass campaign, as it previously benefitted from a reactive campaign, achieving 93% coverage.

“Yellow fever, which is endemic across Western and Central Africa, claims the lives of up to 60,000 Africans every year – lives that can be saved with a highly effective vaccine. We are proud to work with the Government of Congo and partners on this preventive mass vaccination campaign, which will ensure the people of Congo are protected against this deadly disease and will reduce the risk of deadly outbreaks from emerging,” said Thabani Maphosa, Gavi’s Managing Director of Country Programmes.

Yellow fever vaccination coverage in the country has increased since the introduction of the vaccine into the routine immunization schedule in 2004, moving from 54% coverage in 2005 to 80% in 2015. However, the risk of an epidemic remains high and can only be reduced if the majority of the total population is immunized. According to the latest WHO/UNICEF Estimates of National Immunization Coverage (WUENIC) data, the percentage of children in the Republic of the Congo who received three doses of diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis-containing vaccine (DTP3) rose to 77% in 2021 from 73 % in 2020, and coverage of the first dose of measles-containing vaccine (MCV1) remained at 68%, Congo experienced a consistent 2% downward trend in yellow fever coverage during the last two years of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic (from 2019–2021).

“The main tools in the fight against yellow fever are preventive vaccination, development of a global vaccine stockpile for a response, and support for greater preparedness in the countries most at risk. The Government of Congo, working with partners, will make every effort to achieve the objectives of the campaign to eliminate ongoing epidemics in the country,” said Dr. Edouard Ndinga, Head of the Immunization and Vaccine Preventable Diseases (IVD) cluster at WHO Congo.

Yellow fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes, which can be deadly, but is prevented by an extremely effective vaccine. In recent years, deadly outbreaks of yellow fever in Congo (and neighboring Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo) have put the country at risk and on high alert for another possible outbreak.

“This mass preventative campaign in Congo is part of a comprehensive strategy to eliminate yellow fever epidemics (EYE) globally by 2026. Gavi, UNICEF, WHO, and more than 50 partners are supporting the Government of Congo and 39 other high-risk countries to assess epidemic risk, roll out vaccination campaigns, engage with communities and deliver other response activities, including surveillance, logistics, and supply, and laboratory diagnosis. The campaign will be integrated with a measles-rubella campaign led by the Government of Congo and supported by the World Bank to respond to an ongoing measles outbreak,” added Dr. Chantal Umutoni, UNICEF Representative in Congo.