"Our supplier sent the first freight on Sunday [9 February]," Dr Eugene Kpizingui, the UNICEF health and nutrition project officer, told IRIN. He added that these vaccines had been ordered in November 2002 when health services started running out of vaccines. "Our New York headquarters sent US $70,000 for emergency needs in matters of vaccination," said Kpizingui. The vaccines are to combat tuberculosis (TB), yellow fever, diphtheria-tetanus-whooping cough (DTW) and measles.
On Sunday and Tuesday, only 4,050 vials of yellow fever vaccine of 20 doses each and 2,500 vials of TB vaccines of 20 doses each reached the capital, Bangui; 19,500 vials of DTW vaccine of 10 doses each and 8,100 vials of measles vaccine are expected to arrive on 18 February.
"These vaccines will be used for routine immunisation, which the government has made compulsory for children under one year old," Kpizingui said. However, he added, if any epidemics were to erupt in any accessible zone, a massive campaign would be immediately organised to try to contain it.
The nationwide immunisation campaign, initially scheduled to start by mid-December 2002, has not yet begun due to ongoing conflict between government forces and rebels loyal to Gen Francois Bozize, the former army chief of staff. So far no humanitarian NGO has been able to access zones under rebel control - estimated to extend over about half the country - to assess the humanitarian and health needs of the population. A UN humanitarian assessment mission that was due to visit rebel zones on 6 February has been postponed.
Meanwhile, in zones still under government control, epidemiological services have detected some cases of measles in the northwest, and meningitis in the southeast. No epidemic, however, has been officially declared.
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