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What if My Yellow Vaccine Card Says My Yellow Fever Shot is Expired?

If your yellow fever vaccine card says your immunization has expired, don't panic. The yellow fever vaccine offers lasting protection, often for a lifetime with a single dose. As international travel becomes more accessible, understanding this vaccine's remarkable durability is crucial. Despite expiration dates on older cards, current WHO and CDC guidelines state a single dose confers lifelong protection for most. 

This revised guidance has major implications, but what should you do if your card shows an expired date?

Yellow Fever Vaccination: A Single Shot for a Lifetime

The yellow fever vaccine, a live attenuated vaccine, has been a game-changer in the fight against the disease. Unlike many other vaccines that require periodic boosters, the yellow fever vaccine is considered a single-dose vaccination, providing lifelong immunity in most individuals.

Countries Require Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a mosquito-borne viral disease that is endemic in certain tropical and subtropical regions of Africa and South America. Many countries require proof of yellow fever vaccination for entry, particularly if travelers are arriving from areas where the disease is prevalent. 

This preventive measure aims to protect both the traveler and the local population from potential outbreaks. Some popular destinations that require the yellow fever vaccine include:

  • Brazil

  • Kenya

  • Uganda

  • Nigeria

  • Ghana

  • Ethiopia

  • Tanzania

  • Peru

  • Ecuador

  • Bolivia

Travelers should always check the latest entry requirements for their specific destination, as regulations can change over time. Failure to provide proof of yellow fever vaccination could result in denied entry or mandatory quarantine upon arrival in some cases.

What Will You Do If Your Yellow Vaccine Card Says Your Yellow Fever Vaccine 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.

WHO Guidelines Affirm Lifelong Immunity from a Single Yellow Fever Shot

In 2013, the WHO released new guidance stating that a single dose of the yellow fever vaccine is sufficient to confer lifelong immunity for most people. This decision was based on extensive research and data analysis, which demonstrated that the vaccine's efficacy does not diminish over time.

A comprehensive meta-analysis conducted by a team of epidemiologists (Domingo et al., 2022) further solidified this conclusion. By aggregating data from 36 previous studies, the researchers found that while immunity may slightly decline after 10 years, it remains remarkably high. On average, adults maintain an 86% protection rate between 10 and 20 years after receiving the yellow fever vaccine.

Is a Yellow Fever Vaccine Booster Ever Recommended?

There are certain situations where a booster dose of the yellow fever vaccine may be recommended.

These include:

  1. Special Circumstances: Some countries or regions may have specific entry requirements that demand a booster dose, regardless of the long-lasting immunity conferred by the vaccine. Travelers should always check the official guidelines and requirements of their destination country or region.

  2. High-Risk Populations: Certain individuals, such as those with compromised immune systems, may have a reduced response to the yellow fever vaccine. In such cases, a booster dose may be recommended to ensure adequate protection.

It's important to consult with a travel health specialist to receive personalized advice based on your specific travel plans, health status, and any additional factors that may affect the need for a booster dose of the yellow fever vaccine.

Get the Yellow Fever Vaccine to Prepare for Travel

The long-lasting protection offered by the yellow fever vaccine is a significant advantage for frequent travelers and those residing in endemic areas. It eliminates the need for repeated booster doses and simplifies vaccination requirements, ensuring individuals are adequately protected against the disease.

However, it's crucial to consult with travel health specialists, such as from Away Clinic, and adhere to the official guidelines and requirements of destination countries or regions. Some regions may still demand a booster dose, and certain high-risk populations, such as those with compromised immune systems, may require additional precautions.

To make an appointment for a yellow fever vaccination card in Arizona, contact us so we can refer you to our nearest Away Clinic location


Kling, K., Domingo, C., Bogdan, C., Duffy, S., Harder, T., Howick, J., ... & Wolff, R. (2022). Duration of Protection After Vaccination Against Yellow Fever: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Clinical infectious diseases, 75(12), 2266-2274.


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