Yellow fever vaccine shortage

One of the many exciting things we checked off our list this spring break was a little trip to Rock County Public Health for yellow fever and typhoid vaccinations. We plan to spend some time in the San Blas islands of Panama, which is yellow fever territory.Map 3-36. Yellow fever vaccine recommendations in Panama

Map from the CDC. Apparently yellow-fever-infected mosquitoes are terrified of the Panama Canal, and unable to cross it.

Our insurance refused to cover any part of the vaccines, which is why we drove to scenic Janesville–it was the cheapest nearby clinic, but still set us back $930. This is obviously insane, and I’m sure we could have gotten the vaccinations much cheaper in another country once we left the US, but it turns out there’s now a good reason to get it done in advance. The World Health Organization is reporting an outbreak of yellow fever in Angola, so far killing 178, and attempts to control the disease has led to a global vaccine shortage. According to their press release, officials are beginning to discuss diverting vaccine from national routine vaccination programs. I’m guessing most US travel clinics are already pretty well-stocked, but by the time we’re traveling, options may be more limited.

So–maybe just skip the vaccine and rely on DEET and screens to keep the bugs away? The problem lies with leaving Panama. Many countries will not permit entry to unvaccinated individuals who have recently been in an area affected by yellow fever. If we left the San Blas without our yellow vaccination cards, we wouldn’t then be able to travel to Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, or Mexico. Basically, we would just have to turn around. But we couldn’t travel up the Caribbean islands, either–most of them have yellow fever vaccination requirements as well.

The same mosquito that spreads yellow fever is also responsible for zikadengue fever, and chikungunya. (Jerk.) None of these additional fun tropical diseases currently have vaccines, so we’ll be diligent with mosquito abatement anyway; but we’re feeling pretty lucky to have already cleared the bureaucratic hurdle of WHO vaccination cards.

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