Yellow fever - Vaccination 

Yellow fever vaccination 

Travel health

A simple guide to health precautions when travelling abroad, including vaccinations, taking condoms and a first aid kit, and being careful about drinking water.

Media last reviewed: 02/10/2013

Next review due: 02/10/2015

Preventing mosquito bites

As well as getting the yellow fever vaccination before travelling, you should also take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

The Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that carry yellow fever bite during daylight hours. Although it may not always be possible, you should try to follow the advice listed below.

  • avoid places where mosquitoes live, such as swamps, forests and jungles
  • choose air-conditioned accommodation
  • choose accommodation with mesh screening over the windows and doors
  • wear loose fitting long-sleeved tops and trousers
  • spray insect repellent containing DEET onto exposed skin
  • burn a mosquito coil or use a plug-in device that releases insecticide

Vaccination is the most effective way of preventing yellow fever.

In the UK, Stamaril (produced by Sanofi Pasteur MSD) is the only licensed yellow fever vaccination. A single dose of the yellow fever vaccine will protect against yellow fever for at least 10 years. It is recommended that you have a booster dose every 10 years if you are still at risk of infection.

Who should be vaccinated?

You should have the yellow fever vaccination if you are:

  • a laboratory worker and handle infected material
  • travelling to a country where you need an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP) before being allowed into the country the certificate proves that you have been vaccinated against yellow fever
  • travelling to, or living in, an area or country where yellow fever is found (see risk areas for yellow fever for a list of these countries)

You must have a yellow fever vaccination at least 10 days before you travel. This will allow enough time for your body to develop protection against the yellow fever infection.

Your certificate will only become valid 10 days after you have the yellow fever vaccination.

Where do I get vaccinated?

Yellow fever vaccinations can only be given at designated and registered centres. For a centre to become a designated yellow fever vaccination centre, it must register with the appropriate authority. In the UK, this is either:

Find your nearest yellow fever vaccination centre.

Certificate of proof

Under regulations set out by the World Health Organization (WHO), anyone travelling to a country or area where the Aedes aegypti mosquito is found must have an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP).

You can find a list of all the countries that require you to have an ICVP in the WHO International travel and health guide. You can also search the country information on NaTHNaC to find out whether the places you are visiting require an ICVP. 

If you have been travelling in an "at-risk" area during the past month, it is a good idea to carry your certificate with you. This will help avoid potential problems with immigration. It is possible for travellers without a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate to be vaccinated and held in isolation for up to 10 days. An ICVP is not required for entry into the UK.

If you lose your certificate, you may be able to get another one reissued as long as you have details of the vaccination batch number and the date you had the vaccination.

Seeking medical advice

Always consult staff at a designated vaccination centre if you are planning to travel to an area where there is a risk of getting yellow fever. If you tell them where you are travelling to, they will be able to advise you about whether you need to be vaccinated against yellow fever and whether you need an ICVP.

Who should not be vaccinated?

People who should not have the yellow fever vaccination include:

  • babies under nine months of age babies who are six to nine months old should only be vaccinated if the risk of getting yellow fever during travel is unavoidable
  • pregnant women  unless the risk of yellow fever is unavoidable
  • breastfeeding women  unless the risk of yellow fever is unavoidable
  • people whose immune systems are lowered (immunosuppressed) such as people with HIV and those receiving chemotherapy or radiotherapy
  • people who are allergic to eggs the vaccine contains small amounts of egg
  • people who have had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to a previous dose of the yellow fever vaccine
  • people who are allergic to any of the ingredients in the vaccine
  • people who have a condition that affects the thymus gland (part of your immune system that is located in your upper chest)
  • people who are currently very unwell (such as with a high fever)  this is to avoid confusing the diagnosis of your current illness with any side effects from the vaccine
  • yellow fever naïve travellers those who have not been previously exposed to the vaccine who are 60 years of age or over (unless the risk of yellow fever is unavoidable)

Exemption letters

In cases where having a yellow fever vaccination is not advised, your GP may be able to issue you with an exemption letter. The letter should be written on headed notepaper and include the practice details. It may be accepted by some immigration authorities.

If you are travelling from an area where there is a risk of yellow fever without a valid yellow fever certificate, immigration officials are legally entitled to quarantine you for a period of at least seven days at the point of arrival into a country.

Side effects of the vaccine

After having the yellow fever vaccine, 10-30% of people will have mild side effects such as:

  • headache 
  • muscle pain
  • soreness at the injection site
  • mild fever

Reactions at the injection site usually occur one to five days after being vaccinated, although other side effects may last for up to two weeks.

An allergic reaction to the vaccine occurs in one case out of every 130,000 doses of the vaccine that are given. 

Yellow fever vaccine-associated neurological disease (YEL-AND)

Rarely, the yellow fever vaccine is associated with a neurological condition known as yellow fever vaccine-associated neurological disease (YEL-AND). Neurological means that it affects the nerves and the nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord.

YEL-AND occurs in around four cases out of every 1 million doses given. However, for people who are 60 years of age or over and yellow fever vaccine naïve, the incidence of YEL-AND increases to around one in every 50,000. This represents the highest risk for any vaccine currently in use.

The symptoms of YEL-AND include:

  • a high temperature (fever) of 38ºC (100.4ºF) or above
  • headache
  • confusion
  • problems with your nerves for example, a problem with the nerves in your tongue that affects your ability to speak (focal neurological deficit)
  • coma (a state of unconsciousness caused by injury or illness)
  • Guillain-Barré syndrome (inflammation of the network of nerves that control the body's senses and movements)  

Yellow fever vaccine-associated viscerotropic disease (YEL-AVD)

The yellow fever vaccine is also associated with yellow fever vaccine-associated viscerotropic disease (YEL-AVD). Viscerotropic means that it affects the viscera  your internal organs, such as the heart or lungs.

YEL-AVD occurs in around three cases out of every 1 million vaccines that are given. However, for people who are 60 years of age or over and yellow fever vaccine naïve, the incidence of YEL-AVD increases to just over one in every 50,000. This represents the highest risk for any vaccine currently in use.

Symptoms of YEL-AVD include:

  • a high temperature (fever) of 38ºC (100.4ºF) or above
  • headache
  • muscle pain
  • hepatitis (inflammation of the liver)
  • hypotension (low blood pressure) 
  • multiple organ failure

Page last reviewed: 24/01/2013

Next review due: 24/01/2015


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The 4 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

tapasman said on 30 August 2014

Today that is 30 august 2014 my 2 year son and my wife aged 32 had taken yellow fever vaccnination at 12 pm.So,are they allowed to travel on 8 september 2014???
Please reply its vvvv imp...

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ivenotbinwell said on 07 May 2014

Just had a Yellow Fever for our Peru trip.

Just thought I'd add that severe lethargy is also affecting me big time.

Normally I sleep about 4 or 5 hours a night. Today I slept all day.

Not much good if one has a full time job.

This has been going on for 4 days, so far without let-up.

I had radiotherapy this time last year, I'm wondering if that is contributing to a feeble immune system

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Jeff147 said on 07 June 2013

Have a yellow fever vaccine when aged 10. Do I need a booster in view of WHO advise that not necessary?

"17 May 2013 | Geneva - The yellow fever ‘booster’ vaccination given ten years after the initial vaccination is not necessary, according to WHO. An article published in WHO’s Weekly Epidemiological Record (WER) reveals that the Organization’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on immunization (SAGE) has reviewed the latest evidence and concluded that a single dose of vaccination is sufficient to confer life-long immunity against yellow fever disease."

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kangaroopaw said on 12 February 2011

Risk factor - please advise on seniors 70 years +
Risk factor - please advise on the heart - having had an angioplasty

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