13-year-old girl champions the Yellow Fever Campaign in Ghana

Eliminating Yellow Fever in the COVID-19 pandemic

Beneficiaries of the yellow fever campaign
27 January 2021

Sarah Zagbaki a 13-year-old girl in Bonakye Sub-District, Oti Region of Ghana, waited patiently to be immunized against yellow fever during the mass vaccination campaign. In her own words, Sarah told us how ‘she heard about yellow fever, so she has come to get vaccinated’.

Yellow fever is a disease caused by a virus transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. The infection causes fever, jaundice (yellowness of the eyes) and unexplained bleeding and can even lead to death. Vaccination against yellow fever is the primary tool to prevent disease and outbreaks. A single dose of yellow fever vaccination gives a lifelong protection.

In November 2020, the Ministry of Health and the Ghana Health Service and partners launched a yellow fever mass vaccination campaign to vaccinate 5.6 million people from 10 to 60 years old against yellow fever in Ghana supported by GAVI, WHO and UNICEF. This is a continuation of 2018 Yellow Fever preventive campaign where approximately 5.3 million people were vaccinated in 65 districts in Ghana. 

Sarah and her friends

Sarah’s community was part of the 86 districts targeted for vaccination this year. According to her, the campaign was announced in the town at the Community Information Centre. She also heard about it during her local church service. She was determined to get vaccinated when her school teacher came to inform her in the house to get vaccinated and her teacher also gave her the dates for the campaign. 

Despite refusals based on rumors spreading in some districts, because her teacher and pastor told her yellow fever vaccine is safe and free, she believed the vaccine will prevent her from getting yellow fever disease.

Following her immunization, she received a yellow card which included her personal details.  She was instructed to keep it safe to show anyone who wants to know her status one day.

Shortly after her own experience, Sarah brought some of her friends to the vaccination point. When asked, she said she went and convinced her friends to follow her to get vaccinated. She told them that the injection was not painful and they will give them yellow cards like hers. Her friends took courage and followed her.

In addition to vaccination, yellow fever can be prevented by the use of insecticides or insect repellent to avoid mosquito bites, wearing protective clothing, sleeping under a treated net, getting rid of stagnant water and keeping personal and environmental hygiene.

Symptoms of yellow fever usually may occur three to six days after a bite from an infected mosquito. Early symptoms of yellow fever are: fever, chills, severe headache, back pain, general body aches, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, and weakness.

Go to the nearest hospital or clinic and you will be treated for the symptoms and you will be closely observed by the health workers until the symptoms go. Do not take any medicines by yourself if you suspect you have yellow fever. Only take the medicines the health workers give you at the clinic or hospital.