Yellow fever vaccinations – what you need to know

5 min read

If you’ve ever travelled across Africa, upon returning to South Africa you will have been asked to present a yellow fever certificate.

“This is by far the most common vaccination that travellers are required to get when they travel to Africa,” says Oz Desai, Corporate Traveller South Africa GM. “Yellow fever vaccinations are approved by the World Health Organization and need to be administered at an approved vaccination clinic at least 10 days before departing.”

Corporate Traveller brings you a breakdown on what you need to know about the disease and travel requirements within Africa.

1. Key facts

Yellow fever is caused by a virus that is transmitted via the bite of a mosquito infected with the disease and derives its name as a result of jaundice that affects some patients. Other symptoms include fever, headache, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting and fatigue.

The risk to travellers contracting the disease is dependent on various factors, such as the season when travellers are due to travel, the destination and the type of activities that the traveller will be or plan to be involved in.

Large outbreaks of the disease occur in heavily populated areas, known to have a high mosquito density leading to favourable conditions where infected mosquitoes transmit the virus from one person to another in a continuous cycle. Travellers will have a decreased risk of contracting the disease when only travelling and staying in well-developed urban areas.

Currently, 47 countries in Africa are known to be either prevalent for, or have regions that are prevalent for contracting the disease which include: Angola, Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Republic of the Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Togo and Uganda.

Countries with a low probability of contracting the virus includes Zambia, Eritrea, São Tomé,
Somalia and Tanzania.

2. Prevention

There is currently no specific anti-viral drug for the treatment of yellow fever. A small number of patients who contract the virus develop severe symptoms and approximately half of those die within 7 to 10 days.

The only option available is preventative, by means of an extremely effective vaccine, which is normally deemed safe and quite affordable.

A single dose of the yellow fever vaccine is sufficient ensure sustained immunity and life-long protection against yellow fever disease and a booster dose of the vaccine is not needed.

Vaccinations are readily available through registered travel clinics which include:

There are many clinics throughout South Africa where you can get your yellow fever vaccination, Including:


• OR Tambo International Airport Clinic, Johannesburg International Airport: phone +27 (0) 11 921 6609
• NHC Centre, Corner Beyers Naude Drive and Waugh Street, Northcliff: phone + 27 11 214 9030
• Worldwide Travel Medical Consultants Brooklyn, Brooklyn Square, c/o Middel and Veal Street Brooklyn: phone + 27 (0) 12 4604744

Cape Town:

• Netcare Travel Clinic Cape Town, 11th Floor, Room 1107, Picbel Parkade, 58 Strand Street: phone +27 21 419 3172
• Netcare Travel Clinic Tokai, Medicross Tokai, Cnr Tokai and Keyser Road: phone +27 21 715 7063
• Travelsafe Clinic, Shop 3, Cavendish Place, Cavendish Road, Claremont: phone + 21 0860 1000 72


• ICC Durban Travel Clinic / Travel Doctor Durban, International Convention Centre, 45 Ordnance Road: phone + 27 31 360 1122
• SAA-Netcare Travel Clinic, Corner Old Main and Meller Roads, Pinetown: phone + 27 031 709 3070

In addition to the vaccination, the risk of yellow fever transmission in urban areas can be reduced by the use of insect repellent, the closing of water storage containers and other places where standing water collects. Insecticide spraying to kill adult mosquitoes during urban epidemics can help reduce the number of mosquitoes, thus reducing potential sources of yellow fever transmission.

3. Safety of the vaccine

While there has been some reports of side-effects following vaccination, these cases, according to World Health Organization statistics are between 0,4 and 0,8 percent. The rare occasion of severe side-effects being recorded include an attack on the liver, the kidneys or on the nervous system.

Vaccination side effects are believed to be higher for people over 60 years of age and anyone with severe immunodeficiency due to symptomatic HIV/AIDS or other causes, or who have a thymus disorder. People over 60 years of age should only be given the vaccine after a careful risk-benefit assessment.

4. Travel requirements

On occasion, travellers who visit yellow fever endemic countries may bring the disease to countries free from yellow fever.

In order to prevent the spread of the disease, many countries require proof of vaccination against yellow fever before they will issue a visa or entrance, particularly if travellers come from, or have visited yellow fever endemic areas.

When arranging your travel, ask your travel expert for the latest information regarding vaccination requirements. Your travel expert will also be able to guide you on the most convenient locations to get the vaccination, also keeping in mind to plan ahead when possible as it is often a requirement that you have the vaccination at least 10 days before you are due to travel.

Besides yellow fever, travellers into Africa should also take note of the following:


In 2015, nearly half of the world’s population was at risk of malaria. Most malaria cases and deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. There is currently no vaccination against the disease and it is recommend that travellers follow the The A, B, C, D of malaria mnemonic:

A: Awareness
Malaria transmission occurs in Central and South America, sub-Saharan Africa, the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Oceania. It is transmitted by the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito and causes fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and a general ill feeling.

B: Bite prevention
Travellers should take protective measures to reduce contact with mosquitoes between dusk and dawn when Anopheles mosquitoes feed. Use insect repellents with up to 50% DEET, wear long sleeves, and sleep under mosquito nets and ceiling fans. Vital Protection®, a human friendly insecticide, can safeguard the user from mosquito bites.

C: Chemoprophylaxis
Travellers are urged consult their GP or travel doctor before departure to discuss appropriate chemoprophylaxis in the form of oral antimalarial tablets. Pregnant women run a higher risk of contracting malaria, so it is recommended that they do not enter a malaria area.

D: Drug treatment
Travellers who experience symptoms of malaria should present promptly on return if illness is suspected. Early diagnosis of malaria by means of a blood test is essential to prevent complications. If caught early malaria can be treated with oral tablets, but severe cases may need to be hospitalised for intravenous therapy

Travellers into Africa should also consider the following vaccinations Hepatitis A and B, Rubella, Measels, Mumps, Meningococcal Meningitis, rabies, typhoid and diphtheria.