Yellow Fever Vaccine

What is yellow fever?

Yellow fever is a serious disease caused by a virus spread by infected mosquitos, though it cant be spread directly from person to person. The symptoms of yellow fever begin with fever, headache, chills, and nausea/vomiting, and can progress to jaundice (yellow skin or eyes), liver, kidney, and respiratory failure, and death. Yellow fever occurs mainly in certain parts of Africa and tropical South America.

What is the yellow fever vaccine?

The yellow fever vaccine can prevent yellow fever and is given only at approved vaccination centers that can provide the traveler with a valid International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP). This certificate is valid for 10 years from the 10th day after vaccination and is required to enter certain countries. The vaccine is given as a single shot and must be administered at least 10 days prior to travel. Booster shots are recommended for people who remain at risk.

Who should get the yellow fever vaccine?

  • People 9 months of age and older traveling to countries that require proof of yellow fever vaccination
  • People 9 months of age and older traveling to parts of South America and Africa where the risk of yellow fever is known to exist
  • Laboratory personnel or anyone who may have been exposed to the yellow fever virus or vaccine virus

Who should not get the yellow fever vaccine?

  • People with moderate or severe illness (for example, a severe cold, flu or infection of the sinuses or lungs)
  • People with an allergy or hypersensitivity to eggs, chicken, and gelatin
  • Women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant and nursing mothers
  • People should not get this vaccine if they have a weakened immune system for any reason, including:
    • HIV/AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system
    • Treatment with steroids (such as prednisone) for two weeks or longer
    • Cancer or cancer treatment
  • People with history of thymus disease, including myasthenia gravis, thymoma, or prior removal of thymus gland
  • Those who previously had a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction to the vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine should not be vaccinated.

What are the side effects of the yellow fever vaccine?

Mild-to-moderate problems:

  • Soreness, redness or swelling where the shot was given
  • Fever, headache and muscle aches

Severe problems (Rare):

  • Severe nervous system reactions
  • Life-threatening illness with major organ system failure
  • Serious allergic reactions, with symptoms including:
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Wheezing
    • Hives
    • Paleness
    • Fast heartbeat
    • Dizziness

Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help ease pain and reduce fever.

It is extremely rare for these vaccines to cause serious harm or death. If the person getting the vaccine has a serious reaction, call the doctor or seek immediate medical attention.

The yellow fever vaccine is available at Walgreens Pharmacy. Ages vary by state.

If you believe you have a medical emergency,  please call 911.

Call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at 800-232-4636 or visit for more vaccine information.


Hamborsky J, Kroger A, Wolfe S, eds. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases. 13th ed., second printing. Washington, DC: Public Health Foundation, 2015.

Vaccine Information Statement: Yellow Fever Vaccine (What You Need to Know). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 03/30/2011. Accessed April 2016.

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