South African Department of Health


As you are by now aware, Zambia has now been added onto the list of countries where travellers travelling to Zambia will now be required to have a Yellow Fever vaccination certificate following a global Yellow Fever risk assessment conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Zambia`s status has been classified as a low risk. However, as Yellow Fever is vaccine preventable, and travellers to and from countries with a low risk of transmission still risk contracting or importing Yellow Fever into South Africa, the Department of Health in South Africa has updated the Yellow Fever vaccination policy to include Zambia.

The new policy will be effective from 1 October 2011. From this date, a valid Yellow Fever certificate will be required for travellers over 1 year old:

  • Travelling from Zambia, or
  • Having been in transit through a Yellow Fever risk country including Zambia.

What is the Yellow Fever Vaccine?

The yellow fever vaccine is an attenuated, live-virus preparation of the 17D strain of yellow fever virus grown in leucosis-free chick embryos. A single dose correctly given confers immunity in 100% of recipients, and immunity persists for at least 10 years. Re-immunisation is currently recommended after 10 years. So once you have had the injection, you do not need to get another one for 10 years and can be used for travel to other infected countries such as: Kenya, Tanzania, Brazil, Argentina, Panama etc.

This vaccination is given as a single injection given subcutaneously. If a country requires the vaccine for entry, travellers must allow at least 10 days before entering the country for vaccination.

If other live-virus vaccines are necessary for travel (for example MMR, Chickenpox), they should be completed on the same day as the yellow fever vaccination or one month apart.

This vaccine is a safe and highly effective vaccine against this deadly disease. Over 400 million doses of vaccine have been given over 60 years.

  • 200,000 cases of Yellow Fever are estimated to occur yearly on this planet.
  • There is no known treatment to cure the disease.
  • The fatality rate of the disease is reported as 10-50%.
  • Deaths from Yellow Fever disease have occurred in unvaccinated tourists.

What are the Side Effects to getting the Vaccine?

Reports of serious side effects are extremely rare and generally include fever, headache, and muscle ache. The risks of vaccination are not zero and the current best estimates of the risk from yellow fever vaccination are:
Mild Side Effects

  • Most people will get a slight sore arm.
  • 2-10% may feel tired, headache, muscle aches, fever for 24 hours starting 3-9 days after the vaccine.
  • 1% need to curtail regular activities.

More Serious Side Effects

  • 1 in 130,000 will get immediate hypersensitivity – rash, itching faint or asthma – this is why you need to wait 30 minutes in the clinic.
  • 0.09-2.5 per million will get inflammation of multiple organs e.g. lungs, kidney, liver, spleen, skin, blood stream.
  • 1 in 8 million will get encephalitis (inflammation of the brain)

After vaccination, you need to remain at the clinic for half an hour in case you have a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). This reaction is rare (about one in a million), but may be very serious. It can be easily treated at the clinic, but is not so easy to treat if it happens while you are driving home.

Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

  • Feeling warm.
  • Feeling itchy (or developing a rash) away from the injection site.
  • Feeling faint (especially on standing up) or dizzy.
  • A shortness of breath, or a wheeze or cough developing.
  • Swelling in the throat, face, hands or limbs.
  • Sudden tiredness.

Symptoms usually develop within 30 minutes of vaccination, hence the need to wait in the clinic after receiving the Yellow Fever vaccine.
Who Should Not Use The Vaccine?

Children younger than 4 months of age, people who have had a previous severe reaction to the vaccine and those who are extremely allergic to eggs should not receive this vaccine. Infants aged 4 to 12 months should only receive the vaccine under unavoidable, high-risk circumstances.

Persons who have a moderate illness (with or without a fever) should postpone receiving this vaccine until they are well.

The following circumstances may increase your risk of reacting badly to the Yellow Fever Vaccine. It is extremely important you notify the staff member if any of the following apply to you:

  • You are allergic to eggs.
  • You have had an adverse reaction to Yellow Fever Vaccine before.
  • You are, or could be, HIV positive or have AIDS.
  • You suffer from a serious weakness of the immune system.
  • You have cancer, are taking drugs to control cancer, or are undergoing chemotherapy.
  • You have any major liver or kidney disease.
  • You are currently taking steroid drugs or cortisone. Recent injections into a joint and steroid asthma puffers are NOT a problem.
  • You are pregnant, or could be pregnant now or in the next two weeks.