Medically reviewed on August 9, 2017
What is YF-Vax?
Yellow fever is a serious disease caused by a virus that is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Yellow fever can cause fever and flu-like illness, jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin), liver failure, lung failure, kidney failure, vomiting of blood, and possibly death.
YF-Vax is recommended for people who plan to live in or travel to areas where yellow fever is known to exist, or those who are otherwise at high risk of coming into contact with the virus.
This vaccine is used to help prevent yellow fever in adults and children who are at least 9 months old. The vaccine works by exposing you to a small dose of the virus, which causes the body to develop immunity to the disease. This vaccine will not treat an active infection that has already developed in the body.
You should receive the vaccine at least 10 days prior to your arrival in an area where you may be exposed to the virus.
This vaccine is also recommended for people who work in a research laboratory and may be exposed to yellow fever virus through needle-stick accidents or inhalation of viral droplets in the air.
Like any vaccine, the YF-Vax may not provide protection from disease in every person.
You should not receive a booster vaccine if you had a life threatening allergic reaction after the first shot.
Before taking this medicine
You should not receive this vaccine if you have ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to a YF-Vax, or if you have:
an allergy to gelatin, eggs, or chicken proteins;
cancer, leukemia, or lymphoma;
a weak immune system caused by disease (such as cancer or HIV), or by taking certain medicines such as steroids;
a disorder such as myasthenia gravis;
a disease or tumor of the thymus gland, or if your thymus has been surgically removed; or
if you have received a transplant.
If you have a high risk of exposure to yellow fever, you may need to receive the vaccine even if you have an allergy to eggs or chicken products. Your doctor can give you the vaccine in several small doses to avoid an allergic reaction.
In special cases, a doctor or health official may determine that a child between 6 and 9 months old should receive a YF-Vax. Children younger than 6 months old should not receive this vaccine.
To make sure YF-Vax is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have ever had:
a neurologic disorder or disease affecting the brain (or if this was a reaction to a previous vaccine);
a bleeding or blood clotting disorder such as hemophilia;
Guillain Barré syndrome; or
an allergy to latex.
You can still receive a vaccine if you have a cold or fever. In the case of a more severe illness with a fever or any type of infection, wait until you get better before receiving this vaccine.
It is not known whether YF-Vax will harm an unborn baby. However, if you are at a high risk for infection with yellow fever during pregnancy, your doctor should determine whether you need this vaccine.
You should not receive this vaccine if you are breast-feeding a baby.
How is YF-Vax given?
This vaccine is given as an injection (shot) into a muscle.
YF-Vax is given every 10 years to people who are at risk of exposure to yellow fever. The first shot can be given to a child who is at least 9 months old. Your individual booster schedule may be different from these guidelines. Follow your doctor's instructions or the schedule recommended by your local health department or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
After receiving the vaccine, you will be given an International Certificate of Vaccination (yellow card) from the clinic where you receive your YF-Vax. You will need this card as proof of vaccination to enter certain countries. This card becomes valid 10 days after you receive the vaccination and remains valid for 10 years.
YF-Vax can cause false results on a blood test for dengue or Japanese encephalitis. Tell any doctor who treats you if you have received a this medicine within the past 4 to 6 weeks.
In addition to receiving YF-Vax, use protective clothing, insect repellents, and mosquito netting around your bed to further prevent mosquito bites that could infect you with the yellow fever virus.
If you continue to travel or live in areas where yellow fever is common, you should receive a booster dose of yellow fever vaccine every 10 years.
What happens if I miss a dose?
Talk with your doctor if you are receiving this vaccine less than 10 days prior to your arrival in an area where you may be exposed to the yellow fever virus.
Be sure you receive a booster dose of YF-Vax every 10 years if you continue to travel or live in areas where yellow fever is common. If you do not receive the vaccine every 10 years, you may not be fully protected against the disease.
What happens if I overdose?
An overdose of this vaccine is unlikely to occur.
What should I avoid before or after receiving YF-Vax?
Follow your doctor's instructions about any restrictions on food, beverages, or activity.
YF-Vax side effects
Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives; wheezing, chest tightness, difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
You should not receive a booster vaccine if you had a life-threatening allergic reaction after the first vaccine. Keep track of any and all side effects that occur within 30 days after you receive this vaccine. If you ever need to receive a booster dose, you will need to tell your doctor if the previous shot caused any side effects.
Seek medical attention right away if you have any of these symptoms similar to yellow fever that may occur within 10 days after vaccination:
fever, headache, confusion, extreme tiredness;
muscle pain or weakness;
a light-headed feeling, like you might pass out;
easy bruising, unusual bleeding;
little or no urination; or
vomiting, loss of appetite, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes).
Becoming infected with yellow fever is much more dangerous to your health than receiving this vaccine. However, like any medicine, this vaccine can cause side effects but the risk of serious side effects is extremely low.
Call your doctor at once if you have any of these rare but serious side effects within 10 days after you receive the vaccine:
high fever, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light;
extreme tiredness, neck stiffness, seizure;
problems with walking, breathing, speech, swallowing, vision, or eye movement;
weakness or prickly feeling in your fingers or toes;
severe pain (especially at night); or
loss of bladder or bowel control.
Serious side effects may be more likely in older adults.
Common side effects (may occur within 5 to 10 days after vaccination) include:
low fever, general ill feeling;
mild headache, muscle pain;
pain, swelling, or a lump where the shot was given.
This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report vaccine side effects to the US Department of Health and Human Services at 1-800-822-7967.
See also: Side effects (in more detail)
What other drugs will affect YF-Vax?
Before receiving this vaccine, tell the doctor about all other vaccines you have recently received.
Also tell the doctor if you have recently received drugs or treatments that can weaken the immune system, including:
an oral, nasal, inhaled, or injectable steroid medicine;
medicines to treat or prevent organ transplant rejection.
This list is not complete and other drugs may interact with this vaccine. Tell your doctor about all medications you use. This includes prescription, over the counter, vitamin, and herbal products. Do not start a new medication without telling your doctor.
Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.
Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.
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More about YF-Vax (yellow fever vaccine)
- YF-Vax Side Effects
- During Pregnancy or Breastfeeding
- Dosage Information
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- Drug class: viral vaccines
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