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Yellow Fever Vaccine

Yellow fever is a dangerous disease caused by a virus that is transmitted by infected mosquitoes. Avoiding mosquito bites is a very important part of protecting yourself from yellow fever. See the yellow fever page for further information.

The yellow fever vaccine protects against yellow fever. It is helpful in two ways – it protects you as an individual against catching the disease for the whole of your life, and also helps to prevent the disease from spreading further around the world.

The vaccine can be recommended for two reasons:

  • It protects you for life as an individual from being infected when you travel to a country where yellow fever virus is present. See the individual country pages for specific information for your destination. 
  • It helps with preventing the international spread of this disease between countries.

After you have received the vaccine, you are given a yellow fever vaccine certificate to prove that you have received the vaccine and are protected from infection. This certificate is designed to fit inside your passport, and is valid for life.

Proof of vaccination is most often required for travellers journeying from countries where yellow fever is present to countries where transmission could occur (including sometimes where travellers are transiting through airports in such countries).

The countries that require proof of vaccination at their borders are those where either the disease occurs, or countries that currently do not have yellow fever within their borders but they do have the correct mosquito and monkey species that could harbour the infection if it were to get in.

Yellow Fever Pre-vaccination Checklist

The National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) and Public Health Scotland (PHS) have produced a yellow fever pre-vaccination checklist that should be completed by all those considering receiving yellow fever vaccine.

The pre-vaccination checklist has been produced in interactive PDF format to give users the option of completing and saving the document electronically; instructions on how to download and use the yellow fever pre-vaccination checklist can be found here:

Yellow Fever Vaccine

Stamaril® is the yellow fever vaccine that is currently available in the UK.  It is manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur and is made in chicken eggs. The vaccine can be given routinely from 9 months of age, but may also be given to younger infants from 6 months onwards, although it can only be used in special circumstances.

Stamaril® is a live vaccine, which means that it contains a “weakened” form of the yellow fever virus. Live vaccines usually do not cause disease in healthy people, but are not suitable for people with an impaired immune system, for example, caused by treatment with certain drugs or underlying illness. This is because in such circumstances the weakened viruses are able to multiply and may cause a yellow fever like disease, which can be serious.

In most people one dose of yellow fever vaccine provides lifelong protection. A booster dose would only be recommended if you had previously been vaccinated in one of the following circumstances:

  • while pregnant
  • aged less than 2 years old
  • had a weakened immune system
  • whilst infected with HIV
  • before undergoing a bone marrow transplant

Contraindications to vaccination

There are some people who should never be given the yellow fever vaccine. These include:

  • infants less than 6 months of age
  • an allergy to a previous dose of yellow fever vaccine
  • an allergy to eggs or chicken proteins
  • a weakened immune system due to pre-existing disease
  • a weakened immune system due to medication such as chemotherapy drugs, methotrexate, azathioprine or steroids
  • a disorder or disease of the thymus gland e.g. myasthenia gravis, Di George syndrome or have had their thymus gland removed (for any reason)
    • the thymus gland is sometimes removed during cardiac (heart) surgery
  • having a first degree relative who has had a serious complication following yellow fever vaccination


Yellow fever vaccination should usually be avoided during pregnancy and when breastfeeding. A healthcare practitioner will discuss the risks and benefits of vaccination in these circumstances.

The vaccine can be given safely to those with HIV infection, but only if their CD4 counts are > 200 and they are stable on treatment.

Latex: the tip caps of the prefilled syringes contain a natural rubber latex derivative, which may cause allergic reactions in individuals with latex allergy.

Side Effects

Common Side effects

It is common to experience mild side effects after having the yellow fever vaccine such as:

  • mild fever
  • headache
  • joint and muscle pain
  • nausea and/or vomiting
  • soreness at the injection site

These side effects can occur from the day of vaccination up until 14 days after vaccination.  They usually last no more than 3 days.

Rare side effects

Rarely, serious complications can occur after receiving the yellow fever vaccine. These are more common in those over 60 years of age. These include:

  • Yellow fever vaccine associated neurological disease (YEL-AND) is a condition affecting the brain and nervous system, leading to symptoms such as confusion and problems with movement and co-ordination. The risk of YEL-AND occurring is estimated as follows:
    • over 60 years of age = 2.2 cases per 100,000 doses of vaccine administered
    • less than 60 years of age = 0.8 cases per 100,000 doses of vaccine administered
  • Yellow fever vaccine associated viscerotropic disease (YEL-AVD) produces a condition similar to yellow fever itself, with multi organ failure and death in approximately 48% of cases. The risk of YEL-AVD occurring is estimated as follows:
    • over 60 years of age = 1.2 cases per 100,000 doses of vaccine administered
    • less than 60 years of age = 0.3 cases per 100,000 doses of vaccine administered

If you have recently received the yellow fever vaccine and feel unwell please contact your GP or the 111 service if your GP practice is closed.  You should let them know that you have recently received yellow fever vaccine. 

In a medical emergency, when someone is seriously ill and their life is at risk, dial 999.

Vaccination in Those Older Than 60 Years of Age

If you are 60 years of age or older, it is possible for you to receive yellow fever vaccine, but only if you are fit and well, fully understand the risks of vaccination, and have a real risk of getting yellow fever infection at your destination (rather than requiring the vaccine just for certificate purposes). A healthcare practitioner will discuss your risk of disease at your destination and the potential risks of the vaccine, to help you to make an informed decision regarding whether or not to get vaccinated.

Medical Exemption Certificates

A healthcare practitioner will decline to vaccinate you if there is a contraindication to the vaccine and may decline to vaccinate you if the risk of serious vaccine side effects is assessed as being higher than the disease risk. If the risk of disease is deemed low, and you agree, a medical exemption certificate can be issued in these circumstances.

  • A medical exemption certificate is only valid for a single trip.
  • You must practice strict mosquito bite avoidance during travel because you will not have any protection from the vaccine against potential infection.
  • You must be reassessed for any subsequent trips.

Avoiding Travel to a Yellow Fever Risk Area

If you have a contraindication to the vaccine or the risk of serious side effects is high, and there is a significant risk of contracting yellow fever on your trip, you are likely to be advised to cancel or change your travel plans. Healthcare practitioners are not obliged to administer yellow fever vaccine if they believe it unsafe to do so, or it is not required for your trip. If you have any medical conditions, it is best to seek travel advice before you book your trip.

Locate your Nearest Yellow Fever Centre

The yellow fever vaccine can only be administered at designated yellow fever centres. To locate your nearest yellow fever centre please follow the links below:

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