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Health Information Center

Yellow Fever Vaccine

  • Amy Scholten, MPH
Publication Type:


Yellow Fever Vaccine

What Does This Vaccine Help Prevent?

This vaccine helps prevent yellow fever—a virus caused by a mosquito bite. Some people have no symptoms. Others may have flu-like symptoms and jaundice. Serious problems include bleeding, organ failure, and sometimes death.

Yellow fever is found in parts of Africa and South America.

What Is the Yellow Fever Vaccine?

This vaccine uses pieces of the virus. These pieces cannot cause an infection. They show the immune system what the virus looks like. If the virus enters the body, the immune system will be able to see it and attack before an infection starts.

Who Should Get Vaccinated and When?

People may need the vaccine if they live in or go to places where yellow fever is common.

What Are the Risks Associated With Yellow Fever Vaccine?

The most common side effects are:

  • Fever
  • Soreness, swelling, or redness at the injectionsite
  • Muscle aches

Rare, serious reactions may be:

  • Nervous system problems
  • Allergies—anaphylaxis
  • Organ failure

Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?

Some people should not get the vaccine. This may include:

  • Babies aged 6 months and younger
  • Adults aged 60 years and older
  • Those who have:
    • Serious allergies to eggs, chicken, or gelatin
    • A disease or medicine that weakens immunity
    • Problems with the thymus gland or have had it removed
  • Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding

If you need the vaccine, talk to your doctor about the risks.

What Other Ways Can Yellow Fever Be Prevented Besides Vaccination?

To help lower your chances of yellow fever:

  • Stay in places with screens or air conditioning.
  • Cover your skin with long clothes, socks, and shoes.
  • Use bug sprays that contain DEET.
  • Use mosquito netting treated with bug spray.
  • Keep in mind mosquitoes are more active during early morning, late afternoon, and early evening.
  • Do not let water sit outside in buckets, flowerpots, or other containers. Mosquitoes breed in standing water.


  • Domingo C, Fraissinet J, et al. Long-term immunity against yellow fever in children vaccinated during infancy: a longitudinal cohort study. Lancet Infect Dis. 2019;19(12):1363–1370.
  • Yellow fever travel information. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/yellow-fever-information. Accessed January 27, 2021.
  • Yellow fever vaccine. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/drug-monograph/yellow-fever-vaccine. Accessed January 27, 2021.
  • Yellow fever VIS. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/yf.html. Accessed January 27, 2021.


  • David Horn, MD
Last Updated:
January 2021

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.