Vaccines to Prevent Yellow Fever: Yellow Fever Vaccine

Yellow fever is a serious disease caused by the yellow fever virus, found in certain parts of Africa and South America.

Updated: December 20, 2017

Yellow fever is a serious disease caused by the yellow fever virus, found in certain parts of Africa and South America. Yellow fever is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. It cannot be spread person to person by direct contact.
Yellow fever can cause:
  •     fever and flu-like symptoms
  •     jaundice (yellow skin or eyes)
  •     bleeding from multiple body sites
  •     liver, kidney, respiratory and other organ failure
  •     death
Usually people with yellow fever disease have to be hospitalized.

Yellow fever vaccine:

Yellow fever vaccine is a live, weakened virus which is given as a single shot. A booster dose is recommended every 10 years for people who remain at risk.
Yellow fever vaccine can prevent yellow fever and may be given at the same time as most other vaccines. This vaccine is given only at designated vaccination centers.
After getting the vaccine, you should receive a stamped and signed International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis known as yellow card that has been validated by the vaccination center. This certificate becomes valid 10 days after vaccination and last for 10 years. You will need this card as proof of vaccination to enter certain countries. Travelers without proof of vaccination could be given the vaccine upon entry or detained for up to 6 days to make sure they are not infected.
Discuss your itinerary with your doctor or nurse before you get your yellow fever vaccination. Consult your health department or visit CDC's travel information website to learn yellow fever vaccine requirements and recommendations for different countries.

Preventive measures for yellow fever:

The best way to prevent yellow fever is vaccination. Another way to prevent yellow fever is to avoid mosquito bites by:
  • staying in well-screened or air-conditioned areas
  • wearing clothes that cover most of your body
  • using an effective insect repellent, such as those containing DEET

Who should get yellow fever vaccine?

  • Persons 9 months or older traveling to or living in an area where risk of yellow fever is known to exist, or traveling to a country with an entry requirement for the vaccination. Information about known or probable infected areas is available from the World Health Organization, the Pan American Health Organization, and CDC.
  • Laboratory personnel who might be exposed to yellow fever virus or vaccine virus.
  • If you continue to live or travel in yellow fever-endemic areas, you should receive a booster dose of yellow fever vaccine after 10 years.
You should not donate blood for 14 days following the vaccination, because there is a risk of transmitting the vaccine virus through blood products during that period.

Who should not get yellow fever vaccine?

  • Anyone with a severe or life-threatening allergy to any component of the vaccine, including eggs, chicken proteins or gelatin, or who has had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of yellow fever vaccine should not get yellow fever vaccine. Speak to your doctor if you have any severe allergies.
  • Infants younger than 6 months of age should not get the vaccine.
  • Adults 60 years of age and older who cannot avoid travel to a yellow fever area should discuss vaccination with their doctor. They might be at increased risk for severe problems following vaccination.
  • Infants 6 through 8 months of age, pregnant women, and nursing mothers should avoid or postpone travel to an area where there is risk of yellow fever. Discuss vaccination with your doctor if travel cannot be avoided.
  • Speak to your doctor before vaccination if:
  1. You have HIV/AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system.
  2. Your immune system is weakened as a result of cancer or other medical conditions, a transplant, or radiation or drug treatment such as steroids, cancer chemotherapy or other drugs that affect immune cell function.
  3. Your thymus has been removed or you have a thymus disorder, such as myasthenia gravis, DiGeorge syndrome, or thymoma.
Your doctor will help you decide whether you can receive the vaccine.
If you cannot get the vaccine for your medical condition, but require proof of yellow fever vaccination for travel, your doctor can help you. If he considers the risk is acceptably low he can give you a waiver letter. If you plan to use a waiver, you should also contact the embassy of the countries you plan to visit for more information.

Risks from yellow fever vaccine:

There are chances of side effects that are usually mild and go away on their own. Serious reactions are also possible but are rare.
Some of the mild Problems following yellow fever vaccine include: 
  • fever
  • soreness, redness or swelling where the shot was given
These problems  begin soon after the shot, and can last up to a week.
Some of the severe problems which are very rare:
  • Severe allergic reaction to a vaccine component
  • Severe nervous system reaction
  • Life-threatening severe illness with organ failure and death

Problems that could happen after any vaccine:

  • Sometimes people faint after vaccination. Sitting or lying down for about 15 minutes can help prevent fainting. If you feel dizzy, have vision changes or ringing in the ears, speak to your doctor.
  • In some cases severe pain in the shoulder and difficulty moving the arm where a shot was given could happen.
  • A severe allergic reaction would happen within a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.
  • There is a very remote chance of a vaccine causing a serious injury or death. The safety of vaccines is always being monitored. You can get all the information from Vaccine Safety site.
Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, and weakness. These would start a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination. If you have severe allergic reaction, very high fever, or behavior changes , call 9-1-1 or find the nearest hospital.
The reaction should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) through the VAERS website or by calling 1-800-822-7967. VAERS is only for reporting reactions. They do not give medical advice.
If you are injured by a vaccine, you can file a claim in  National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) by calling 1-800-338-2382 or visiting the VICP website to get the compensation.

Learn more about Vaccine:

Your doctor can give you the vaccine package insert or suggest other sources of information.
You can call your local or state health department or can contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by:
        Calling 1-800-232-4636 (1-800-CDC-INFO)
        Visiting  CDC's website at
                      Traveler's Health
                       Yellow Fever
                       Yellow Fever Vaccination






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