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What if my yellow vaccine card says my yellow fever shot is expired?

If your yellow vaccine card says your yellow fever immunization has expired, you have the following options if you are planning to travel to a country that requires yellow fever vaccination:

  1. Just go and take your chances. You know you are protected and airline and government officials should allow you to travel freely--not saying they will though.

  2. Reach out to the clinic that did your original shot to see if they will provide an updated yellow vaccine card without an expiration date.

  3. Get another yellow fever shot.

If you want to be on the safe side, options 2 and 3 are preferred. You don't want to be either told you can't fly or held up at immigration when you arrive in your destination country.

The yellow fever immunization does not expire, one shot provides life-long immunity, and a booster shot is not necessary. However, prior to 2013, booster shots were recommended. If you got a yellow fever shot prior to that year, it's likely that an expiration date of 10 years after the shot is listed.

Since we know that the shot confers lifelong immunity that shouldn't be a problem but it can be problematic for many government and airline officials who are not familiar with the intricacies of the changes in yellow fever guidance.

Why did it change?

The yellow fever vaccine, also known as the YF-17D vaccine, is considered to provide lifelong protection once a person receives the full recommended dose. In the past, it was believed that the immunity conferred by the yellow fever vaccine might wane after 10 years, leading to the recommendation for booster doses. However, more recent scientific research and studies have shown that the immunity provided by the yellow fever vaccine is generally long-lasting and may persist for a person's lifetime.

The YF-17D vaccine was developed in the 1930s and has been extensively used to control yellow fever outbreaks in endemic regions and to protect travelers visiting those areas. Over time, data accumulated, showing that people who received the yellow fever vaccine maintained protective antibodies for many years, if not decades.

Additionally, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regularly review and update vaccination guidelines based on the latest scientific evidence. As a result, they have concluded that a single dose of the yellow fever vaccine is sufficient to provide long-lasting immunity for most individuals. Booster doses are generally not necessary for the majority of people who have received the full initial vaccination series.

It's essential to consult with healthcare professionals and travel clinics to get the most up-to-date information on yellow fever vaccination requirements and recommendations, as guidelines and recommendations may change over time.

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