I was lucky enough to travel recently for the first time to Brazil and the Amazon. After negotiating the complex travel visa process, I learned from the Brazilian Consulate that I also need a vaccine for yellow fever, which is a virus endemic to most of South American and Africa, according to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Do I have to get vaccinated for yellow fever?
Without the yellow fever vaccine, I could have been denied entry into Brazil, according to the Brazilian Consulate. However, vaccination is not a requirement to enter any country, according to the CDC, so denied entry was unlikely, especially to modern cities like Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paolo. Further, I received my tourist Visa from the Brazilian Consulate without proof of vaccination.
In short, no, a vaccine is not required to enter Rio, Sao Paolo or other major cities in Brazil. However, it is recommended.
What are the risks of skipping the vaccine?
The risk of actually contracting the yellow fever virus is lower in South American than Africa, according to the CDC. However, unvaccinated travelers risk developing the horrible skin disease marked by pussy yellow, blistering boils spread by mosquito bites in infected areas. Somewhere between 10% to 90% of US travelers don’t get the vaccine. All of the cases of yellow fever in the US are brought back by these people. I didn’t want to be one of them.
Since we planned to visit the Amazon, vaccination seemed like a sensible preventive measure. So I made some calls to local health care clinics to set an appointment. Of the five major health care clinics on Maui, only two offer international travel vaccines: Kaiser Permanente and Dr. Chad Meyer. Kaiser only treats members. Fortunately, Dr. Meyer sees everyone else.
You might have to call around to find a doctor that specializes in travel medicine in order to get vaccinated for yellow fever.
What else do I need to know about the yellow fever vaccine?
Here’s a summary of what my doctor told me about the vaccine for the yellow fever virus:
- Vaccine against the yellow fever virus must be given 3 weeks before travel to affected areas in order to be effective.
- The vaccine is a single injection of 0.5 mL of reconstituted virus. In other words, it’s a live virus vaccine.
- Side effects could include fever, pain, swelling and yellow fever. (Yuck!) But immunity, once developed, is lifelong.(Yay!)
Dr. Meyer also recommended that I receive vaccinations for additional diserases:
- hepatitis A;
- and a tetanus booster.
The total cost for these vaccines, plus the office visit to review traveler’s health tips, cost about $500 cash.
Have you been vaccinated? If so, please reply and tell us about your experience with the vaccine, yellow fever or travel to endemic areas.
Hawaii resources for international travel vaccines:
- Kaiser Permanente, Travel Medicine Department — (808) 243-6000
- Dr. Chad Meyer, Maui Travel Medicine — (808) 573-5088
- O’ahu has more resources than Maui, including Kaiser, Queen’s and Straub clinics.
- On Kauai and the Big Island, area hospital clinics have the vaccines.