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WHO Launches Yellow Fever Initiative for West Africa

The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a comprehensive immunization programme across 12 highest-risk countries in West Africa , and aimed at covering as many as 48 milllion people.

The initiative is being undertaken to counter the yellow fever, resurging in the region and is backed by a $ 58 million contribution from the GAVI Alliance.

The Alliance (formerly known as the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation) is a public-private partnership focused on increasing children's access to vaccines in poor countries. Partners include the GAVI Fund, national governments, UNICEF, WHO, The World Bank, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the vaccine industry, public health institutions and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The GAVI Fund provides resources for the Alliance programs.

Childhood immunisation is one of the best values in health care, providing tremendous benefit at very low cost. A child can be immunised for only $30. It is a near-perfect intervention, preventing disease before it is allowed to take root, protecting children when they are most vulnerable and providing them with a healthy start in life.

The GAVI alliance website notes - The Alliance addresses one of the worlds most glaring injustices: the inability of the poorest countries to provide vaccines for all of their children. Roughly one child in four does not receive any vaccinations. Of the 130 million children born each year, two to three million will die from vaccine-preventable diseases.

"The Yellow Fever Initiative will be able to vaccinate at-risk populations and thus quickly reduce the risk of devastating outbreaks that could otherwise threaten the region and the world," Mike Ryan, Director of the WHO Department of Epidemic and Pandemic Alert and Response said in Geneva, where the World Health Assembly is convened.

To prevent yellow fever infections from spreading into an epidemic, immunization coverage must
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