Do I need the Yellow Fever Vaccine to Cruise?

When traveling to certain countries (such as Africa and South America) you may get a Yellow Fever Advisory letter informing you of yellow fever outbreaks in the areas that you are cruising OR informing you that you may need a yellow fever vaccination.

Do you need the yellow fever vaccine to cruise to destinations where outbreaks have occurred? Its up to the cruise line that you are sailing with. Some require it, and some do not (this depends on where you were born etc.). It is best to contact your cruise line that you are sailing with OR travel agency in order to see if you are required to have the vaccine or not.

This comprehensive guide tells you all that you need to know about yellow fever and can help you to determine whether you want to get the vaccine or not depending on where you are traveling.

What is Yellow Fever?

Yellow fever is a serious disease caused by the yellow fever virus found in parts of certain part of Africa and South America. It is spread most commonly through the bite of an infected mosquito and cannot be spread person to person by direct contact.

Yellow fever can cause:

  • fever and flu-like symptoms
  • jaundice (yellow skin or eyes)
  • bleeding
  • liver, kidney, respiratory and other organ failure
  • death in some cases

Who is at risk?

  • Travelers to certain parts of South America (such as Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, and Paraguay)
  • Travelers to certain parts of Africa (such as Guinea, Ghana, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola)

Ways to Prevent Yellow Fever

The only way to really prevent yellow fever is to avoid mosquito bites by:

  • staying in well-screened or air-conditioned areas
  • wearing clothes that cover most or all of your body
  • using effective insect repellent that contains DEET

Or get the yellow fever vaccine.

Yellow Fever Vaccine Information

The yellow fever vaccine can prevent yellow fever and is given only at designated vaccination centers (click here to search for Yellow Fever clinics. ¬†After getting the vaccine, you are given a stamped and signed “International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis” (yellow card); which becomes valid 10 days after vaccination and is good for 10 years.

When you have this card, you will need it as proof of vaccination to enter certain countries. *Travelers without proof of vaccination could be given the vaccine upon entry or detained for up to 6 days to make sure that they are not infected.*

The yellow vaccine is a live, weakened virus given through shot.

Risks from the vaccine:

  • Mild Side Effects: fever, aches, soreness, redness, and swelling where the shot was given (these occur in 25% of people given the shot and can last up to a week)
  • Serious Side Effects: severe allergic reaction (1 in 55,000), severe nervous system reaction (1 in 125,000), Life threatening severe illness with organ failure–resulting in death (1 in 250,000)

Who should get the yellow fever vaccine?

  • People ages 9 months – 59 years of age traveling to or living in an area where risk of yellow fever is known to exist OR traveling to a country with an entry requirement for vaccination
  • More information for travelers can be found through the CDC website (

Who should NOT get the yellow fever vaccine?

  • Anyone allergic to eggs, chicken proteins, gellatin or anyone who has had a severe reaction to a previous yellow fever vaccine
  • Infants between 6-8 months of age, pregnant women, and nursing mothers
  • Adults 60 years of age and older (because of increased risk for severe problems)

If you are unable to get the vaccine for medical reasons, but you need proof of yellow fever vaccination for travel your doctor can give you a waiver letter if he/she considers the risk low.

How can you learn more?

  • Contact the cruise line or your travel agency to see if you need to get a yellow fever vaccination
  • Ask your doctor about the yellow fever vaccination
  • Call your local or state health department
  • Contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at 1-800-232-4636 OR visit CDCwebsite at



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