May 19, 2016

WASHINGTON (May 19, 2016) – Lauding the World Health Organization for calling an emergency committee meeting to discuss yellow fever, global health law and governance expert Lawrence O. Gostin says hard work must begin immediately.

Gostin, who along with infectious disease specialist Daniel Lucey, both with the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University, urged the WHO to call an emergency meeting in their JAMA Viewpoint published online May 9. They pointed out that regardless of whether or not a public health emergency of international concern was declared, the act of calling the meeting would help mobilize funds, coordinate an international response, and spearhead a surge in vaccine production.

“Calling an emergency committee for yellow fever was clearly the right thing to do,” says Gostin. He adds:

There are two reasons we should be concerned about yellow fever. First, there is the potential for rapid spread to other countries and regions, threatening the health of large populations in Africa, Asia and elsewhere.

Second, as the crisis escalates, global supplies of the yellow fever vaccine are dwindling and we could easily face a critical shortage.

The world needs the WHO to be a 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.

What this new emergency committee demonstrates is that mosquito borne diseases – Zika and now yellow fever – pose major threats.

This requires a war against mosquito vectors with resources and a full range of technologies, as well as health education.

To arrange an interview with Gostin, please contact Karen Teber at

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.


Contact: O’Neill Institute: Karen Teber /