When You Can't Get Yellow Fever Vaccine

Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

When you’re travelling, some countries require you to be vaccinated against yellow fever. But what happens when you cannot receive the vaccine?

According to Dr Aisha Abubakar, Mombasa chief officer for public health, different countries have different traveller vaccination requirements.

“For instance, India and Pakistan require travellers to show proof of polio vaccination while in Tanzania it is not a requirement. However, most countries ask for a yellow fever vaccination card,” she said.

Because the yellow fever vaccine is a live vaccine, there are some travellers who cannot get it and a waiver is issued by a doctor.

“A person with low immunity cannot get the vaccine and may have to travel with a doctor’s exemption letter,” she said.


However, in very strict countries, the vaccination waiver may not be honoured.

“There are some countries that are very strict and insist on having the certificate despite you having a doctor’s letter. But some can be a bit lenient,” said Dr Aisha.

If you are travelling to countries and areas with risk of yellow fever transmission and you cannot be vaccinated, avoid staying outdoors at night when mosquitoes come out.

If you have to sit outdoors on warm nights, wear clothes that cover the whole body. Opt for clothes with long sleeves.

Also, avoid places that are wet, flooded or near lakes or oceans which tend to harbour mosquitoes. Ensure your room is very cold because mosquitoes prefer warm spaces.

For those who can get the vaccine, get it 10 days before travelling and it is valid for life.

“Initially, we used to repeat after 10 years but nowadays it is just once for life,” Dr Aisha said.