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4,000 block road, demand yellow fever vaccines

/ Source: The Associated Press

Some 4,000 people demanding vaccinations against yellow fever blockaded a highway near the capital Wednesday, a week after the disease made its first appearance in Paraguay in 34 years.

The blockade snarled traffic for hours on a major route near Asuncion before authorities negotiated a peaceful end to the demonstration, police officer Francisco Monges said. There were no reports of violence.

Paraguayan health officials last week announced five confirmed cases of yellow fever that originated in a remote farm community, but no deaths. The outbreak prompted South America's second-poorest country to urgently request 600,000 doses of vaccine from international health authorities.

Demonstrators complained the government had been caught short of doses and demanded a major vaccination campaign against the mosquito-borne disease. Hundreds of people lined up this week at hospitals around Paraguay, demanding vaccines that were unavailable.

Separately, Paraguayan health officials said they were preparing to rush in 50,000 vaccines on a refrigerated plane from Brazil. Peru also had pledged thousands of doses.

Paraguayan authorities had no immediate response to calls for a wider vaccination campaign. They initially said they were concentrating vaccination efforts on residents of the affected community of San Pedro, some 240 miles from the border with Brazil.

The last reported case of yellow fever in Paraguay was in 1974.

The World Health Organization says an estimated 30,000 people worldwide die annually from the disease. Symptoms can include fevers, vomiting, jaundice and bleeding from the mouth, nose, eyes and stomach.