Gavi initiative revolutionizes yellow fever diagnostics capacity across Africa

AFRICA – Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, together with WHO, UNICEF, CDC, the Institut Pasteur Dakar, Centre Pasteur Cameroon, and the Uganda Virus Research Institute has funded implementation of the Eliminate Yellow Fever Epidemics (EYE) strategy that has bolstered yellow fever diagnostic capacity across Africa.

The program that was launched in 2018 has revolutionized diagnostics on the continent, one of the programme’s coordinating agencies, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, said.

During inception, the Gavi Board approved US$ 8.2 million in funding for yellow fever diagnostic equipment and supplies, as well as US$ 5.3 million to strengthen lab capacity in 24 African countries for the 2019-21 period.

This funding for diagnostic testing was in support of much larger Gavi investments in yellow fever vaccination, such as US$428 million approved for 2016-2020 and US$424 million approved for 2021-2025, as part of the global Eliminating Yellow Fever Epidemics (EYE) strategy.

In retrospect, the number of laboratories able to confirm yellow fever samples on the continent has risen from one, in Senegal, to four, with Nigeria, Cameroon and Uganda now able to definitively determine if someone has yellow fever, particularly early in the course of illness.

This laboratory network has helped save nearly US$ 2 million in unnecessary spending by correctly identifying disease cases and allowing public health authorities to make timely decisions that minimize waste.

In addition, data from this network has driven country decisions to protect their populations against yellow fever in the long term, such as Uganda’s decision in 2020 to introduce the yellow fever vaccine into routine immunization.

Chronic shortages of laboratory supplies that impeded timely yellow fever testing have been resolved by the establishment of testing bundles that can be readily ordered by national laboratories.

A new commercial PCR test kit validated by the EYE laboratory technical working group is now available for use in national laboratories that are part of the WHO yellow fever laboratory network.

Prior to this investment in diagnostic capacity, it was a huge challenge for countries across Africa to accurately ascertain where yellow fever outbreaks were at risk of breaking out,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

The initiative has also improved the transportation of samples, with the WHO working with shipping companies to set up an international sample transportation system and training logisticians across the continent.

Yellow fever, a mosquito-borne viral hemorrhagic fever that can cause uncontrolled bleeding and death, clinically resembles many other diseases, such as Ebola virus disease and hepatitis A, B, and C. As a result, accurate diagnostic testing is essential for determining whether someone has yellow fever or another disease.

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