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WHO Recommends Yellow Fever Vaccine Prior to Carnival

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended visitors to Sao Paulo, Brazil, should consider getting the yellow fever vaccine before visiting.

A recent report coming out on Reuters reveals that the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended visitors to Sao Paulo, Brazil, should consider getting the yellow fever vaccine before going on their trip. This may prove quite a challenge for some individuals looking to travel to the state for Carnival (set to begin on February 11) as the United States is in the midst of a yellow fever vaccine shortage.

Yellow fever is endemic in the tropical regions of Africa and Latin America. The mosquito-borne virus causes fever, headache, jaundice, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. According to the WHO, “a small proportion of patients who contract the virus develop severe symptoms and approximately half of those die within 7 to 10 days.” About 200,000 cases of infection occur around the world each year and about 30,000 of those infected will die.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) of the WHO writes that “vaccination is the most important preventive measure against yellow fever. The vaccine is safe, affordable and highly effective, providing effective immunity within 30 days for 99% of those vaccinated. A single dose is sufficient to confer sustained immunity and life-long protection, with no need for a booster.” However, because supplies of Sanofi’s YF-Vax, the only yellow fever vaccine licensed in the United States, are expected to remain depleted until mid-2018, US individuals seeking to be vaccinated before traveling to Brazil may have an issue accessing the alternative vaccine, Stamaril. The alternative vaccine is comparable in safety and effectiveness; however, it is only available at select sites throughout the United States. Individuals who are interested in the alternative yellow fever vaccine should check with their health care provider.

For those who are able to access the vaccine, Carnival celebrations are set to move forth as planned. The Reuters report states that Antonio Carlos Nardi, MD, Brazil’s Deputy Health Minister has stated that the celebrations for Carnival will take place in urban areas and that as long as individuals remained in the cities, they should not be at risk of contracting the disease. Although Brazil was in the midst of a massive yellow fever outbreak in 2017, and cases have also risen this year, Dr. Nardi stated that they are not in the middle of an outbreak at this time. He is quoted as saying, “We are not at this time speaking of an outbreak but an increase in the number of cases in the states of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Bahia.”

To be safe, though, Sao Paolo has amped up its vaccination campaign with the goal of “vaccinating 8.3 million people in 54 cities in the state by mid-February,” writes Reuters. In addition, the state will be continuing with vaccination practices used last year in which individuals will be given a half-dose of the vaccine, instead of the full dose, to ensure there is enough of the vaccine available. A half-dose of the vaccine should provide immunity for 8 years, as opposed to a full-dose which confers lifetime immunity.