COMMENTARY ON THE ONGOING PREVENTIVE MASS YELLOW FEVER CAMPAIGN
Prevention it is said, is always better than cure. It is on this premise that the ongoing mass Yellow Fever Campaign is welcoming news. 81 districts in 14 regions excluding Western and Western North regions are taking part in the exercise. These two regions have had their vaccinations in phase one which was conducted in 2018. Five point Eight Million Ghanaians from age 10 to 60 years who have never had a yellow fever vaccination excluding pregnant women are expected to benefit from the vaccination. The objective is to maintain a high population immunity of all persons living in Ghana.
Yellow Fever is a viral haemorrhagic disease transmitted by infected Aedesaegypti mosquitoes, and is said to be highly infectious. The mosquito which causes yellow fever breeds in the little water collected in axils of leaves that is plantain and banana leaves, lorry tyres and flower pots among others. The “yellow” in the name refers to the jaundice that affects some patients. Specialists in the field say Yellow Fever is difficult to diagnose especially during the early stages and a more severe case can be confused with severe malaria since they exhibit the same symptoms as fever, headache, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. This also accounts for under reporting of the disease. About 15 percent of infected persons develop severe complications such as liver, kidney problems and bleeding with about half of them dying within seven to ten days. Remember there is no treatment for yellow fever except vaccination to prevent it.
The virus is said to be endemic in tropical areas of Africa, Central and South America. Ghana is one of the 34 endemic countries in Africa, hence the need for mass campaigns to help deal with the disease. It is known that large epidemics occur when infected people introduce the virus into heavily populated areas with high density of Aedesaegypti, mosquitoes where most people have high or no immunity due to lack of vaccination or prior exposure to Yellow Fever. There are 200,000 cases worldwide with 30,000 deaths annually.
The WHO notes that a confirmed case of Yellow Fever in an unvaccinated population is considered an outbreak as such the ongoing preventive campaign must be taken seriously and those in the target group, 10 to 60 years should avail themselves for the exercise. Since it is an injectable, static points or locations have been created aside health facilities. Vaccination is the most important means of preventing Yellow Fever. One injection is for full protection.
The Yellow Fever vaccine is safe, and a single dose provides life- long protection against the disease. It used to be 10 years but research has found out that one jab is for a life time. Several vaccination strategies are used to prevent Yellow Fever transmission. These are routine infant immunization administered at nine months of age, preventive mass vaccination campaigns designed to increase coverage in countries at risk, outbreak response vaccination campaign, Yellow Fever disease surveillance and vaccination of travelers going to Yellow Fever endemic areas. In high-risk areas where vaccination coverage is low, prompt recognition and control of outbreaks using mass immunization is critical.
The WHO says recent occurrences have shown that Yellow Fever poses a serious global threat requiring new strategic thinking. The response therefore is The New Global Strategy for the Elimination of Yellow Fever Epidemics (EYE) Strategy launched in 2017.The (EYE) Strategy supports 40 at- risk countries in Africa and the Americas to prevent, detect, and respond to Yellow Fever suspected cases and outbreaks. The partnership aims at protecting at-risk populations, preventing international spread, and containing outbreaks rapidly. It is expected that by the end of 2026 more than One billion people will be protected against the disease through vaccination. It is worthy of note that to prevent the importation of the disease, many countries require proof of vaccination against Yellow Fever before visas are issued, particularly if travelers come from, or have visited Yellow Fever Endemic areas. Ghana has had Yellow Fever outbreaks before.
It is therefore imperative that this SIX day exercise is given the utmost attention and patronage to maintain the gains made and not to trigger any unexpected occurrence. Covid-19 still lingers and strict safety protocols should be observed and environmental hygiene kept to stay alive.