Here in the UK we are lucky to only need a couple of vaccinations throughout our lifetime. When visiting other countries particularly in the Americas, Africa and Asia we are exposed to new potentially life-threatening diseases and vaccinations are recommended.
Whilst most vaccinations are completely safe, live vaccines can pose a risk to people with a weakened immune system. Whether this is from pregnancy, age or health conditions and health treatments. Live vaccines work by injecting a weakened living form of the virus into the body so the body can develop the right anti-bodies to fight against it. Those with a lower immune system may be unable to destroy the virus thus causing it to develop in the body, rarely with sometime fatal consequences.
Earlier this month two people died after receiving the Yellow Fever vaccination raising concern over the safety of the vaccine.
According to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) the fatalities were caused by adverse reactions to the yellow fever vaccine. The deaths are thought to be due to suspected yellow fever vaccine-associated viscerotropic disease (YEL-AVD). Both people who received the vaccination were known to be at increased risk of recognised adverse events associated with the vaccine; one due to having had a thymectomy and the other being 67 years of age, with unknown additional risk factors.
The MHRA have released a reminder for healthcare professionals.
Understandably, those due to travel to countries with a known risk of yellow fever, such as Africa and South and Central America, may be concerned about having the vaccine ahead of their holiday. Those who are concerned about the vaccine and are thinking of bypassing it should strongly consider the associated risks carefully. Yellow fever is a mosquito-borne viral disease which causes jaundice, bleeding and severe damage to organs, and also has a high death rate.
The National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC), set up by the Department of Health in 2002 with the broad aim of protecting the health of British travellers, continues to recommend that travellers consult with a health professional to allow a careful risk assessment to be carried out and yellow fever vaccine to be administered when appropriate. Travellers who are unable to have the vaccination should consider an alternative destination, or take precaution to prevent mosquito bites.
For ways to prevent mosquito bites check out the Travel Health Pro Factsheet.
It is important to note, medical intervention associated with the contraction of a disease or virus, that could have been prevented by vaccine, will not be covered by any travel insurance policy. The exception to this is if there is a medical risk associated with having the vaccination where having the vaccine could have serious health implications.