Yellow Fever Vaccine Side Effects

Yellow fever is an acute viral disease caused by yellow fever virus and transmitted through an infected mosquito bite. The disease doesn’t spread through direct contact, but once infected, hospitalization is required. It is prevalent in Africa and South America and is characterized by features like fever and flu-like symptoms, bleeding from multiple sites, jaundice (yellowish discoloration), multi-organ failure involving kidneys, liver or respiratory system, and even death in about 20%-50% of critical cases.

Yellow Fever Vaccine Side Effects

YF-Vax or yellow fever vaccine is an effective preventive measure taken to prevent the development of the disease in children and adults. For the vaccine to work, children of about 9 months will be exposed to small amounts of the virus, so that the body develops immunity against it. Much like all the other vaccines, this vaccine doesn’t in any way treat the disease, it only prevents it. In case one is travelling to an area where yellow fever is endemic, it is a must to get vaccinated 10 days prior to arrival on the location. Although effective in preventing yellow fever, YF-Vax has its own side effects. You should be well-informed of these side effects in case medical attention is required.

1. Allergic Reaction

A previous allergic reaction must be conveyed to the health care professional if you’re going for a booster dose and monitor the side effects and their intensity for 30 days after the shot. Allergic reaction signs that warrant medical help include:

  • Pale skin
  • Hives
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Facial swelling
  • Swelling of lips, tongue and throat

2. Less Severe Side Effects

Less serious yellow fever vaccine side effects occurring 5-10 days after the vaccine include:

  • Low-grade fever
  • General ill feeling
  • Mild headache
  • Mild rash
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain
  • Body aches
  • Pain, tenderness or swelling at the site of shot

3. Call for Medical Help Immediately

Side effects of yellow fever vaccine may occur as long as 30 days after the shot, so be alert and call the doctor immediately if you experience:

  • Flu symptoms
  • Neck or back stiffness
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Loss of memory
  • Irritability
  • Loss of balance and coordination
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Weakness or pricky feeling in fingers or toes
  • Difficulty in walking, breathing, speech and seeing
  • Severe lower back pain
  • Loss of bladder and bowel control
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of movement in any part of body, including the eyes
  • Behavioral changes
  • Seizure
  • Blackouts

4. Watch Out For Interactions

Among all yellow fever vaccine side effects, interaction should never be ignored. Following your doctor’s instructions and guidelines is of immense importance when getting vaccinated. Be it about dietary or activity restrictions, make sure you obey the healthcare provider' advice. Also, inform your doctor about:

  • Any vaccines received recently
  • All your current medications and treatments including oral, nasal, inhaled or an injectable steroid, drugs for psoriasis, drugs for rheumatoid arthritis, drugs for other autoimmune disorders and medicines used to prevent organ rejection during transplant

Note: During the last 5 years, there have been reports of seven individuals contracting the disease from the vaccine itself. Out of 7, 6 died, raising concerns on the safety of the vaccine. However, such incidents are extremely rare when compared with the number of people receiving the vaccine safely. What's more, this doesn’t mean that one should avoid vaccine, because getting infected with the fever itself is more dangerous than the yellow fever vaccine side effects.

Precaution When Getting Yellow Fever Vaccine

Yellow fever vaccine is contraindicated in a few cases and make sure you consult your doctor if one or more of the following cases hold true for you.

The vaccine should be avoided:

  • In infants below 6 months of age
  • In a person severely allergic to vaccine or any of its components like eggs, chicken protein, or gelatin

You should discuss the possibility of accepting yellow fever vaccine if:

  • You have a weak immune system due to HIV/AIDS, cancer, a transplant, radiation or drug treatment, chemotherapy, steroid intake, removed thymus, thymus disorder like thymoma, myasthenia gravis or DiGeorge syndrome
  • You are above 60 but cannot avoid travelling to yellow fever prevalent areas
  • Your baby is about 6-8 months of age, or you are pregnant or breastfeeding but you are going to places where you might get yellow fever
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