British travellers face shortage of yellow fever vaccine

British travellers looking to visit tropical Africa and South America during the winter are likely to face a shortage of the vital yellow-fever vaccine, due to global demand outstripping supply, The Telegraph has reported.

Several British hospitals and health centres have reported an inadequate supply of the vaccine since July. Immunisation against the disease is strongly recommended for travel to winter sun destinations including Brazil, Cape Verde and Gambia.

Travel health specialists are also warning of difficulty in obtaining the vaccine, as fresh supplies are not expected until the beginning of next year. Yellow fever is a fatal disease that kills up to 60 percent of people that become infected. It is prevalent in tropical areas of Africa, South America and parts of the Caribbean and India where mosquitoes are present.

Dr Richard Dawood of the Fleet Street Clinic in London was quoted in the Telegraph, saying, ‘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. 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,’ he added.

Greg Lawson, head of retail at the travel insurance specialist, Columbus Direct, agreed, saying: ‘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 National Travel Health Network and Centre has also warned of the shortage of yellow fever vaccine on its website. It advises travellers to visit the website, and to check ‘Yellow Fever Centres’, which lists both NHS and private clinics that currently provide the vaccine.

According to Dr. Dawood, the shortage is due to there only being one manufacturer of the vaccine, which is difficult to produce.

In addition to requiring the vaccination to prevent contracting the disease, those travelling from one yellow fever risk area to another also need to provide proof of inoculation in the form of a yellow fever certificate.