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All About Yellow Fever Vaccinations

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Traveling soon? Americans who need a yellow fever vaccine for travel to certain countries may have a difficult time getting the shot due to a national shortage of yellow fever vaccine.

Yellow fever is a disease that is transmitted by infected mosquitoes in some African and South American countries. People with yellow fever may experience a sudden onset of fever, flu-like symptoms, nausea and vomiting, bleeding of the gums, bloody urine and yellow skin (jaundice).

Although most people who get yellow fever have mild disease with complete recovery, the disease can be severe in others, resulting in bleeding, shock, organ failure and even death. It is very important to take the necessary precautions when traveling to certain tropical and subtropical areas to protect yourself from the disease. These may include:

  • Utilizing a good mosquito repellant.
  • Wearing protective clothing.
  • Getting vaccinated for yellow fever.

The yellow fever vaccine is a live-virus vaccine that has been used for several decades and is very effective. For most individuals, a single dose provides lifelong protection against the potentially deadly disease. Unfortunately, there is currently a shortage in supply of the only approved yellow fever vaccine for use in the U.S., YF-VAX®, which is expected to last until mid-2018.

As a result of this shortage, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have approved a short-term plan to allow the use of a yellow fever vaccine manufactured in France by Sanofi Pasteur called Stamaril®. Of approximately 4,000 U.S. clinic sites that normally offer the VF-VAX shot against yellow fever, the Stamaril vaccine is only available at 250 approved sites—one of which is Ochsner Travel and Tropical Disease Clinic.

While the disease is not found in the U.S., the CDC recommends people aged nine-months or older who are traveling to areas at risk for exposure to yellow fever get vaccinated prior to travel. About 20 countries require proof of vaccination for entry. These requirements and recommendations are available on the CDC Travelers’ Health webpage.

Travelers who want the vaccine will need to plan ahead. It may take longer (and you may have to travel further) to get the shot because of the shortage of YF-VAX. It is important that you schedule a visit with your travel clinic physician enough time in advance for the vaccine to become effective—you must receive it at least 10 days before your planned trip.

If you are taking an international trip soon, check to see if the CDC recommends a yellow fever vaccine for your destination. If it does, go get it now—it may be hard to get this shot—and if you can’t get it, then you should postpone your trip.

For more information about Ochsner’s protocols for administering the yellow fever vaccine, please contact the Ochsner Infectious Disease Department at 504.842.4005.

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