If you are a South African travelling to or from countries that require a Yellow Fever certificate, you must ensure that you get a vaccination against yellow fever before leaving on your trip. All individuals above the age of 1 year are required by international health regulations to get vaccinated before any journey that entails travel to or through the so-called “yellow fever belt” of Africa or South America.
What is Yellow Fever and what are the risks?
Yellow Fever is a disease caused by a virus that is transmitted via the bite of an infected mosquito and is so-named because when the virus attacks the liver, the colour of the skin and eyes turns yellow (jaundice).
The risk of travellers getting yellow fever differs due to various factors, including the season, the destination, the type of activities undertaken, and the length of stay. The risk is low for most travellers, especially if you are going to mainly well-developed urban areas. Those staying for a longer time, participating in outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, fieldwork or cycling, and those visiting rural or jungle areas are more at risk.
Yellow fever is endemic (always present) in many of the tropical areas of Africa and South America, and this means that any areas populated with the mosquito could harbour the disease.
Which Countries Require Yellow Fever Certificates?
You will not be able to get a visa or permit to travel to the following countries unless you have been vaccinated at least 10 days prior to your departure date and can show a yellow fever certificate:
- Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi
- Cameroon, Central African Rep., Chad, Colombia, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire
- Democratic Rep. of Congo, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea
- French Guinea
- Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana
- Niger, Nigeria
- Panama, Peru
- Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Suriname
- Tanzania, Togo
- Zambia (recently identified as a country with mild risk of yellow fever)
Yellow Fever certificates are valid for a period of 10 years commencing 10 days after the date of vaccination. Should you require a re-vaccination; the certificate will then be valid for 10 years from the date of that re-vaccination
Is the Yellow Fever Vaccine Safe?
Although there have been various myths that the vaccine is not safe and can actually infect you with yellow fever, the single-dose vaccine against yellow fever is 100% safe and effective. It is recommended for the majority of individuals over nine months of age.
The vaccine is generally not recommended for:
- Children under the age of 9 months.
- Individuals older than 60 years of age (especially if they have never had the vaccine before).
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women.
- Individuals with a weakened immune system.
- Individuals who are allergic to eggs.