RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan. 15 (Xinhua) -- The Brazilian government has suspended exports of the yellow fever vaccine to satisfy domestic demand after two patients were reported to have died of the disease in the country this year, local media reported Tuesday.
The report was confirmed by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), the world's largest producer of the vaccine, which exported 15.5 million doses to over 30 countries in 2007.
According to Fiocruz's laboratory Bio-Manguinhos, the exports were suspended at the end of last year in order to "better satisfy the internal demand" for the vaccines.
The lab stressed in a statement that demand for the vaccine has intensified, especially by "people who do not need it," such as those who do not live in the endangered areas and those who have already taken it less than 10 years ago.
The announcement of alleged deaths linked to yellow fever in Brazil has generated a rush to public health units where the vaccines are offered, leading supplies of the medicine to become scarce in some places.
Up to now only two deaths have been confirmed. Computer technician Graco Abubakir died on Jan. 8, but his infection was only confirmed some days later.
It was revealed Monday that another victim, a 24-year-old man, whose identity was kept secret at the family's request, died on Jan. 2.
Apart from the casualties, a female patient at a hospital in Sao Paulo was also confirmed to be infected with the disease.
The Ministry of Health has recommended mass vaccination in all states in mid-western Brazil where the two patients died, and in the Amazon rainforest region, as well as in some areas in the northeastern, southeastern and southern regions.
Citizens planning to visit those places are also advised to take the vaccine 10 days before their trip.
Minister of Health Jose Gomes Temporao made a speech on national TV Sunday, denying the risk of a yellow fever outbreak in the country. Seventeen cases are still being investigated, such as the death of Spanish tourist Salvador Perez de la Cal, 41, who was vacationing on a farm in Goias, in mid-western Brazil.