August 31, 2016

Contact: Karen Teber

WASHINGTON (August 31, 2016) – A public health law expert at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law says today’s World Health Organization Emergency Committee meeting to review the latest information about the yellow fever outbreak is critical to maintaining a state of preparedness, but agrees the situation doesn’t warrant a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) designation.

Lawrence Gostin, University Professor and faculty director of the O’Neill Institute and an expert on the International Health Regulations that govern WHO PHEIC, says while not a PHEIC, the current yellow fever outbreak has highlighted the need to reinforce vaccine stockpiles and expand the vaccination program.

Yellow fever is a viral disease spread by mosquitoes, but is highly preventable with vaccination. Currently, Angola is experiencing an outbreak and many are concerned next month’s rainy season would allow a proliferation in the viral-carrying mosquitoes. An emergency vaccination campaign is underway in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo to prevent an outbreak there.

Gostin says:

“It is vital to expand the ring of vaccination and to ensure going forward that there is ample supply of the yellow fever vaccine. The potential remains for rapid spread to other countries and regions, threatening the health of large populations in Africa, Asia and elsewhere.

“As we’ve seen, global supplies of the yellow fever vaccine are limited and that scarcity must be urgently addressed. The WHO is the global leader in conserving existing vaccine supplies, deploying them strategically, and developing surge capacity for vaccine production.

“Beyond that, WHO must lead a well-funded global research and development campaign to develop new technologies for rapid vaccine production that does not rely on the old egg-based technologies, which are inherently slow.

“WHO also needs to provide technical assistance and on the ground assistance to fragile health systems experiencing outbreaks of yellow fever on top of already overwhelming health threats.”

Gostin is available after 3:45 ET. Please contact Karen Teber at to arrange an interview.

The O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University is the premier center for health law, scholarship, and policy. Its mission is to contribute to a more powerful and deeper understanding of the multiple ways in which law can be used to improve the public’s health, using objective evidence as a measure. The O’Neill Institute seeks to advance scholarship, science, research, and teaching that will encourage key decision-makers in the public, private, and civil society to employ the law as a positive tool for enabling more people in the United States and throughout the world to lead healthier lives.