If you’re traveling this summer to a country that requires you to get a yellow fever vaccine prior to arrival, now is the best time to get it.
The vaccine needs to be received about two to three weeks prior to travel and supplies are running low, said Dr. Mark Lacy, director of the International Travel Clinic at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.
Sanofi Pasteur, the company that manufactures the vaccine, last week announced production troubles regarding the yellow fever vaccine (YF-Vax) that will make it unavailable until 2018. The company produced a replacement called Stamaril, but there’s a limited supply and Lubbock only has a handful of doses.
Lacy said international travelers are encouraged to be aware of the vaccine requirements for the countries they’re visiting and should plan accordingly.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website shows a list of health care facilities that should have supplies of the vaccine. There are eight facilities listed in Lubbock, including two United Family pharmacies, two Walgreens locations, two HSC clinics, Lubbock Cardiology Clinic and Minor Emergency Center.
“That website is not really accurate because it says we have the drug and we don’t,” Lacy said.
Representatives from each clinic location said they’re already out of stock and have supplies on back order.
Lacy said it’s important to note that not all countries require the vaccine.
“You should talk to a travel medicine expert about whether the country or the place you’re going requires the vaccine,” he said.
Stamaril is available under an investigational new drug program with a limit on distribution, according to a CDC advisory issued last month.
You may not need one if you’ve had one in the last 10 years.
“For the average person or someone who is not an international traveler to the tropics, it’s not a big deal, at least at this point in time,” Lacy said. “The concern is the mosquito that has the potential to transmit yellow fever, it lives in Texas.”
The Aedes mosquito is the same mosquito that transmits Zika, dengue and chikungunya virus, Lacy said.
Symptoms start to show about five to seven days after the bite. Lacy said it generally starts with flu-like symptoms and progresses.
“After a few days, they feel better,” he said. “Most people, 80 to 90 percent of them, they do fine. They move on. However, there’s a subset of those people that get sick, about 20 percent of them, after a few days of getting better, they get worse again. They start having bleeding problems, they get jaundice, it’s called a type of hemorrhagic fever.”
There is no effective antibiotic to treat it, he said. When infected, people need to be hospitalized and it has a 20 to 50 percent mortality rate.
The vaccine doesn’t necessarily provide immunity from the virus, Lacy said, but it provides a form of protection.
People unable to get a dose of the vaccine are encouraged to postpone their travel plans until they can get one, Lacy said.
Those preparing for summer travels to certain parts of Africa and South America, where proof of the YF-Vax is required to enter the country, may have to travel to get a dose — and call first, he said.