Yellow fever risk assessment

26 March 2019

Article: 53/1206

Travax has issued a reminder on the importance of adhering to the international health regulations issued by the World Health Organization (WHO)  when advising travellers on the need for yellow fever vaccine.

Yellow fever itself is a severe disease with a high mortality rate. The yellow fever vaccine is highly efficacious and provides lifelong immunity in immunocompetent travellers. However, yellow fever vaccine is a live vaccine with associated side effects, some of which are severe.

Health Protection Scotland (HPS) advises travel health practitioners to administer yellow fever vaccine only where there is a risk of disease or a certificate under IHR is required for country entry. A careful and full risk assessment weighing up the risks of vaccination versus the risk of disease must be made for every traveller, involving the traveller in this discussion to ensure they are fully informed.

Vaccinating travellers where there is no clinical or certificate requirement is inappropriate and could leave a practitioner accountable to their professional governing body in the event of an adverse reaction to a vaccine. 

For example; anecdotal stories of travellers being asked for proof of vaccination contrary to a country’s IHR regulations is not a reason to vaccinate. Unexpected delays of greater than 12 hours are very unusual and yellow fever vaccination should not be given simply to cover this rare possibility. Instructions from a travel agent that a vaccination certificate is required should not be followed when this is not stated in the IHR.

Vaccination and certificate requirements are published on every country page on Travax.

Further information and advice on yellow fever is available to view on the Travax (for health professionals) and fitfortravel (for the general public) websites.

Source: Travax, 18 March 2019