Despite the risk, no yellow fever vaccine for me

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Photo by Aaron Cranford

By AARON CRANFORD

While walking around the streets of Manaus, Brazil, I suddenly hear them approaching. Zzz! Mosquitoes, coming down from the heavens, biting my skin and possibly transmitting yellow fever into my bloodstream.

This is the dream I’ve been having for weeks now, but everything’s going to be OK. I will be traveling to Manaus, which is the capital city of the state of Amazonas, at one time during my travel through the country. After plenty of research and debate, I am choosing not to get a yellow fever vaccine, even though one is recommended for people visiting the state of Amazonas.

The Consulate General of Brazil in Washington D.C. urges travelers who are visiting rural areas in specific states to take the vaccine, and as mentioned, the state I’m spending a week or two at is one of those states.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has resources for students, faculty and all people in general about travel and health, and the UNC Internal Medicine Travel Clinic (IMTC) offers insightful information for travelers.

“During your visit our doctors will review your itinerary and help you decide which immunizations and which medications will be right for you,” the IMTC webpage says. “Immunizations given two weeks before departure can prevent hepatitis, typhoid fever, yellow fever and Japanese encephalitis.  Medications can prevent malaria, shorten the course of travelers’ diarrhea and reduce your risk of altitude sickness.  The UNC Internal Medicine Travel Clinic carries all the vaccines you might need including yellow fever vaccine.”

There are a few reasons why I am choosing not to take a vaccine. First, the price of the vaccination ranges from $125 to $175, and although many insurance policies will cover the immunization, I personally don’t like the price. Second, the possibility of me actually catching yellow fever is slim to none. For one, I am not traveling there during peak “yellow-fever season,” which is typically from January to May in South America.

“After all, there have been just 9 reports of yellow fever in unvaccinated travelers from 1970-2011,” the UNC report on yellow fever says. “The decision to undergo vaccination will be influenced by the time of year, duration of stay, amount of time spent out of doors, and the destination.

“In West Africa, transmission is greatest from July to October, and in South America, transmission is greatest from January to May. Some older travelers to destinations that do not mandate vaccination may reasonably decide that long sleeve shirts, long pants, hats and insect repellent may be the right choice for them.”

Finally, the main reason why I am choosing not to take the yellow fever vaccination is that Manaus is not a “rural” region of the Amazonas. Sure, if I want to travel outside of the city, then I may feel more inclined to take a shot, but because I am staying in the large city, there really is no point of me taking a vaccine.

This is an ongoing series of journal entries, in which I will explain and document my preparation for travel and travel through Brazil in May through August of 2015. You can read each journal entry on The Orange Traveler or on ojogobonito.weebly.com where they will initially be published.

Have you traveled to Manaus or have had to take a yellow fever vaccination? What advice do you have for travelers?

Share you thoughts below.

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