The Democratic Republic of Congo says it will begin a campaign next month to vaccinate 11.6 million people against yellow fever after an epidemic was declared in the capital.
Health Minister Felix Kabange said the campaign will begin July 20 and will aim to vaccinate everyone in the capital of Kinshasa except children under nine months, and will also target populations in the provinces of Kwango, Lualaba and Kasai.
Last week, Congo’s government announced an epidemic in Kinshasa and two other provinces after reporting 67 confirmed cases of yellow fever and more than 1,000 other suspected cases. An outbreak in neighboring Angola has led to the deaths of about 345 people.
Kabange did not say how health authorities would acquire enough vaccination doses for the campaign. The vaccine is in short supply around the world, and takes about a year to make.
The World Health Organization recommended this month that the vaccine be diluted up to a fifth of the standard dose to deal with the current emergency.
The WHO says the lower dosage will protect people for at least a year, but will likely not give lifelong immunity.
It announced last week that it plans to vaccinate people along the border between Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and said it is working with vaccine manufacturers to increase production.
In addition to the DRC, the outbreak of yellow fever in Angola has been linked to cases in China and Kenya. The disease is also prevalent in South America, where several countries have current cases.
Yellow fever is an acute viral disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes. The mosquito that transmits the virus is the same one responsible for the Zika virus, dengue fever and Chikungunya.
The yellow fever virus is usually very mild, and most people who are infected have few or no symptoms. However, about 15 percent of patients become severely ill and up to 50 percent of those die without treatment.