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Yellow Fever Vaccinations, Panama Travel

News for travelers to and from Panama: The last case of yellow fever in Panama was 39 years ago. However, recent outbreaks in Brazil as well as next door Costa Rica have convinced Panama to require yellow fever vaccinations. All travelers who enter or return to Panama from countries with known yellow fever cases will need to have had a yellow fever vaccination to enter the country. A yellow fever vaccination confers immunity against yellow fever for ten years or more. Travels to infected areas need to get a yellow fever vaccination and carry an international certificate of vaccination.

New Panama Travel Requirements; Yellow Fever Vaccination

According to La Prensa, Panama 9/29/08, border officials will begin to require Panama residents to provide proof of vaccination against yellow fever if traveling to countries with recent cases of yellow fever. There have been no yellow fever cases in Panama for thirty years but according to La Prensa this is measure to prevent an outbreak.

The vaccine requirement will apply to Panama residents traveling to countries that have reported recent cases of the disease, most notably Costa Rica.
Because of the change, Panama health officials plan to open additional vaccination sites across the country. The vaccine is not available through private clinics and hospitals.

According to La Prensa, Panama, new cases of yellow fever have been reported in Costa Rica, Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia, Argentina, and Venezuela. These are the countries for which vaccinations are currently required.

Yellow Fever

According to the Communicable Disease Center (Atlanta) web site for yellow fever, “Yellow fever virus, a flavivirus, is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected mosquitoes. Illness ranges in severity from a self-limited febrile illness to severe hepatitis and hemorrhagic fever. Yellow fever disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings, laboratory testing, and the possibility of exposure to infected mosquitoes. There is no specific treatment for yellow fever; care is based on symptoms. Steps to prevent yellow fever include use of insect repellent, protective clothing, and vaccination. Yellow fever occurs in tropical regions of Africa and in parts of South America.

Yellow Fever Prevention from the CDC’s Yellow Book

Travelers to areas with yellow fever transmission should take precautions against exposure to mosquitoes. Staying in air-conditioned or well-screened quarters and wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants will help prevent mosquito bites. Insect repellents containing DEET or picaridin should be used on exposed skin and reapplied as directed on the label. Permethrin-containing repellents should be applied to clothing.
Yellow fever is preventable by a relatively safe, effective vaccine. For all eligible persons, a single injection of 0.5 mL of reconstituted vaccine should be administered subcutaneously.
Reasons Not to Get a Yellow Fever Vaccination (Contraindications)

Age less than six months
History of Thymus disease including myesthenia gravis
Breast feeding mothers
Hypersensitivity (allergy) to eggs
Immunosuppressed patients (cancer, AIDS)

Individuals not able to get a vaccination for medical reasons need to carry letter from their physician. This letter needs to clearly state the reason why the person cannot be vaccinated.


There is no yellow fever in Panama. The last case here was thirty years ago. There have been scattered cases in other South American countries. If you travel from these countries to Panama you will need a yellow fever vaccination to cross the border. This is a preventive measure. You need to carry a certificate of vaccination provided when you get vaccinated. If you are one of the few individuals for whom getting yellow fever vaccination is dangerous you need a signed letter from your physician clearly stating that you cannot take the vaccination and why.

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