Yellow Vaccine Fever Shortage: What Does it Mean?
Sanofi-Pasteur, the company that manufactures the sole Yellow fever vaccine available in the United States, announced last year that they were experiencing significant problems with their supply chain, and, unfortunately, the impact of these problems continues. Because YF-Vax is in short supply, the manufacturer has had to place limits on the amount of vaccine that can be ordered in both the single dose and five dose vials. Sanofi has been hard at work to get the problems corrected and bring supply back to normal, but the shortage is expected to last at a minimum through April of 2014.
Unfortunately, the shortage has impacted travel to tropical climates, and it could be extra bad news for travelers wishing to go to the World Cup this summer, as the Yellow Fever Vaccine may be recommended for travel to Brazil. The Yellow fever vaccine takes 30 days to provide maximum protection against the disease, so if you are planning to go to Brazil for some of the first matches, be sure to seek out a Yellow Fever provider as soon as possible. However, the vaccine shortage is about far more than having to cancel a football vacation since yellow fever is a very serious illness that kills tens of thousands of people each year.
What is Yellow Fever?
Yellow fever is a viral infection that is spread through mosquitoes that carry the virus and pass it on to humans by biting them. Once a person becomes infected, he or she may experience symptoms such as fever, muscle pain, backaches, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, headaches and shivers. Although unpleasant, most people who are infected with the disease will recover within a few days. However, a small but not insignificant portion of Yellow fever patients may relapse within a day of recovering from initial symptoms.
If a patient relapses, then death is a very real possibility. The patient may vomit and experience abdominal pain and may become jaundiced as the liver and kidneys begin to fail. If the patient begins bleeding from the nose, stomach or mouth, then blood will appear in vomit or feces as well. At this stage, death can occur within two weeks. Although most deaths occur in native populations as opposed to tourists, there are approximately 200,000 cases of Yellow fever each year, and 30,000 people die from the disease on an annual basis. Of all deaths from Yellow fever, 90 percent occur in sub-Saharan Africa. There are 44 countries in Africa and Latin America where this disease is endemic.
Mosquito nets and mosquito spray containing DEET are both good ways to minimize the risk of contracting Yellow fever. Using permethrin spray on clothing and bedding can also help repel the mosquitoes that carry this deadly virus. However, the best defense against Yellow fever is vaccination. This is why the shortage of the vaccine is such an urgent issue. Without vaccination before a trip, travelers must rely on other, much less sure methods of prevention. In many cases, this may not be enough.
Can I Still Receive the Yellow Fever Vaccine?
Although the supply of Yellow fever vaccine is extremely limited due to the dire shortage situation, Passport Health can likely still provide you with a Yellow fever vaccination. There are extremely few other medical service providers in the United States who can still offer the vaccine. If you are traveling to an area where Yellow fever is common, then you should definitely book an appointment with a travel health specialist at Passport Health as soon as possible. Don’t wait before it’s too late; your health is not worth the risk.
Yellow Fever Fact Sheet from the World Health Organization (WHO)
CDC Page on Yellow Fever Vaccination
CDC Announcement on the Yellow Fever Vaccine Shortage
Independent Article on the Vaccine Shortage