Yellow Fever Vaccine: What You Need to Know

Yellow Fever Vaccine: What You Need to Know

What is yellow fever?

Yellow fever is a serious disease caused by the yellow
fever virus. It is 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

People with yellow fever disease usually have to be
hospitalized. 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 (20% to 50% of serious cases).

How can I prevent yellow fever?

Yellow fever vaccine

Yellow fever vaccine can prevent yellow fever.

Yellow fever vaccine is given only at designated
vaccination centers.

After getting the vaccine, you should be given a stamped
and signed "International Certificate of Vaccination or
Prophylaxis" (yellow card). This certificate becomes
valid 10 days after vaccination and is good 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

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 at to learn yellow fever
vaccine requirements and recommendations for different

Other preventive measures

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.

Yellow fever vaccine

Yellow fever vaccine is a live, weakened virus. It is
given as a single shot. For people who remain at risk, a
booster dose is recommended every 10 years.

Yellow fever vaccine may be given at the same time as
most other vaccines.

Who should get yellow fever vaccine?

  • Persons 9 months through 59 years of age 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.
  • Laboratory personnel who might be exposed to yellow
    fever virus or vaccine virus.

Information for travelers can be found online through
CDC (, the World Health
Organization (, and the Pan American
Health Organization (

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 (life-threatening) allergy to any
    component of the vaccine, including eggs, chicken
    proteins, or gelatin, or who has had a severe allergic
    to a previous dose of yellow fever vaccine
    should not get yellow fever vaccine. Tell your doctor if
    you have any severe allergies
  • Infants younger than 6 months of age should not get
    the vaccine.
  • Tell your doctor if:
    • You have HIV/AIDS or another disease that affects
      the immune system.
    • 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
    • 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.

  • 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. If travel
    cannot be avoided, discuss vaccination with your

If you cannot get the vaccine for medical reasons, but
require proof of yellow fever vaccination for travel, your
doctor can give you a waiver letter if he considers the
risk acceptably low. If you plan to use a waiver, you
should also contact the embassy of the countries you
plan to visit for more information

What are the risks from yellow fever vaccine?

A vaccine, like any medicine, could cause a serious
reaction. But the risk of a vaccine causing serious harm,
or death, is extremely low.

Mild problems

Yellow fever vaccine has been associated with fever, and
with aches, soreness, redness or swelling where the shot
was given.

These problems occur in up to 1 person in 4. They
usually begin soon after the shot and can last up to a

Severe problems

  • Severe allergic reaction to a vaccine component (about
    1 person in 55,000).
  • Severe nervous system reaction (about 1 person in
  • Life-threatening severe illness with organ failure
    (about 1 person in 250,000). More than half the people
    who suffer this side effect die.

These last two problems have never been reported after a
booster dose.

What if there is a serious reaction?

What should I look for?

  • Look for anything that concerns you, such as signs of
    a severe allergic reaction, very high fever, behavior
    changes, or flu-like symptoms that occur 1-30 days
    after vaccination.

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

What should I do?

  • If you think it is a severe allergic reaction or other emergency that can't wait, call 911 or get the person to the nearest hospital. Otherwise, call your doctor.
  • Afterward, the reaction should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Your doctor might file this report, or you can do it yourself through the VAERS website at, or by calling 1-800-822-7967.

VAERS is only for reporting reactions. They do not give medical advice.

How can I learn more?

  • Ask your doctor.
  • Call your local or state health department.
  • Contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
    • Call 1-800-232-4636 (1-800-CDC-INFO).
    • Visit CDC websites at,, or

Vaccine Information Statement

Yellow Fever Vaccine


Department of Health and Human Services

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Many Vaccine Information Statements are available in Spanish and other languages. See

Muchas hojas de información sobre vacunas están disponibles en español y en otros idiomas. Visite

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