Travellers planning visits to the tropical parts of South America and Africa are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain the yellow fever jabs considered necessary due to a worldwide shortage of the vaccination.
Since late July a growing number of British hospitals and health centres have reported dwindling supplies of the vaccine, which is strongly recommended for travel to winter sun destinations such as Brazil, Cape Verde and Gambia.
Travel health specialists are warning that in the run-up to Christmas obtaining the yellow fever jab is likely to get even more difficult as fresh supplies are not anticipated until the beginning of next year.
Should another shortage arise next year it could affect the tens of thousands hoping to head to Brazil for the World Cup.
“We are getting lots of people coming in who have been unable to obtain the yellow fever jab at a number of places and are getting quite nervous about it,” said Dr Richard Dawood of the Fleet Street Clinic in London. “At the moment we still have supplies but I fear we too may run out.
“I would advise anyone planning to go away to affected countries over Christmas to try to get the jab now. It is only going to get more difficult.”
Yellow fever is an extremely serious disease which kills up to 60 per cent of people infected. It is prevalent in tropical area of Africa, South America and parts of the Caribbean and India where mosquitoes are present. Humans and monkeys are the species most frequently affected.
In addition to requiring the jab to prevent contracting the disease, people travelling from one yellow fever risk area to another generally have to provide proof of inoculation in the form of a yellow fever certificate.
According to Dr Dawood, the shortage has come about because there is only one manufacturer of the vaccine – and because it is inherently difficult to produce.
His advice to travellers was echoed by Greg Lawson, head of retail at the travel insurance specialist Columbus Direct.
“Vaccination is the single most important preventative measure against this deadly disease.
“If travelling to regions where yellow fever is found, it is recommended that you seek advice from a health professional at a registered yellow fever vaccination centre at least six to eight weeks in advance to ensure it is available.”
The government-funded NationalTravelHealthNetworkandCentre website is also warning about the current lack of the yellow fever vaccine.
“Clinics around the country still have the vaccine in stock, but it may take a little more searching than usual to find one,” it says.
It advises travellers who are concerned to visit the website nathnac.org, click on the link to travellers and then to ‘Yellow Fever Centres’, on which is listed both NHS and private clinics that are still able to provide the vaccine.