IFFIm has provided US$ 90 million to the Yellow Fever Initiative to ensure emergency stockpiles of vaccines are available in West Africa, both to stave off epidemics and run preventive campaigns
When 19 cases of yellow fever were identified last year in the suburbs of Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, public health officials said they feared a devastating epidemic could emerge.
More than two million people needed to be immunised immediately, but there was little available vaccine in a country still dealing with a decade of political instability. What's more, it was summer, with a disease that has no cure and which spreads lightning fast. The mosquito-borne illness can be fatal.
Yet within two weeks, the Côte d'Ivoire Health Ministry had spearheaded a massive vaccination drive that covered almost half of Abidjan's five million people and contained the yellow fever outbreak.
How? As one of the countries eligible for GAVI funding, Côte d'Ivoire was able to draw on an emergency stockpile of yellow fever vaccine in nearby Senegal for no charge.
Similar stockpiles are based in France and Brazil. GAVI used funds from the International Finance Facility for Immunisation (IFFIm) to make the one-off investment to set the stockpile up.
This is the kind of life-saving initiative which IFFIm funds have made possible.
"The success of such a large scale campaign lies in the flow of the supply chain and the effectiveness of the social mobilisation," explains Cecilia Gmawghe, Coordinator for the Montserrado County Health Team in Liberia, which similarly targeted three million people there in 2009 for yellow fewer vaccination.
Hundreds of people queued up at over 400 vaccination centres that were open from dawn to dusk.
UNICEF spokesperson Yvette Bivigou, Cote d'Ivoire
In Cote d'Ivoire, the drive was organised and publicised by the Health Ministry so the vaccine could be administered at points across the capital.
Under normal circumstances, a vaccination team can immunise up to 1,200 people per day.
Technical support was provided by the International Coordinating Group for Yellow Fever, which includes WHO, Médecins Sans Frontières and International Federation of the Red Cross.
"Hundreds of people queued up at over 400 vaccination centres that were open from dawn to dusk," says UNICEF spokesperson Yvette Bivigou, noting that local TV, radio and billboards alerted the public to report to health centres and hospitals.
"It was busy, but the atmosphere remained calm. Each night, television news gave updates on the number of people who had been immunised."
Amidst political uncertainty, UNICEF supports yellow-fever immunization campaign in Côte d'Ivoire.
In order to avoid a repeat of the outbreak in more rural areas, where 25 Ivorians died of the disease in late 2010, an additional 800,000 people were immunised against yellow fever in early 2011, once again with funding from GAVI and delivery provided by UNICEF.
In many rural communities, the long distance to the nearest health centre means families often miss routine vaccination.
Over the past three years, campaigns across West Africa have enabled 61 million people to be immunised against yellow fever, funded largely through GAVI, aided by its participation in the International Coordinating Group (ICG) on Yellow Fever Vaccine Provision initiative and its work with vaccine manufacturers through the AMC.
Other members of the initiative include WHO and UNICEF.