Do you need Yellow Fever vaccination to visit Tanzania ?
On February 29th, 2012, The Guardian newspaper published directly opposed opinions regarding the need for Yellow Fever vaccination, from Mh Rashid Ndaile, Mkinga District Commissioner and Mh Samuel Sitta, Minister for East African Cooperation. Those opinions are quoted here:
"Our law stipulates that every visitor crossing our border should either possess a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate to show that they have been vaccinated or to be vaccinated at the border post but most of them are not ready. As a result, there are misunderstandings everyday between the health border workers and visitors," lamented Ndaile.
However, Sitta replied to the DC's report that there was no law, which required a visitor to undergo a yellow fever vaccination, when crossing a Tanzanian border. “So, there is no need to be bothered by a thing, which creates unnecessary disturbance to the visitors.”
It is surprising that The Guardian or IPPmedia.com were unable to first clarify whether or not such a law actually exists, before publishing directly opposed opinions that only serve to further confuse the public and our potential visitors.
The law referred to by Mh Ndaile must be the Public Health Act 1008, signed into effect on March 12th 2009. Part III(c), Section 21, of the Public Health Act, clearly states the need for persons entering Mainland Tanzania to provide proof of Yellow Fever vaccination or get vaccinated at the port of entry. A verbatim copy of the law is reproduced here:
Several additional questions regarding Yellow Fever and the need for vaccination arose on our email discussion group since the publication of the Guardian article. Our answers and recommendations are shared for the benefit of the Tanzanian public and our visitors.
Benefits of Yellow Fever vaccination:
Yellow fever is an endemic disease in tropical countries and is easily spread by the abundant mosquitoes in our countries. The main goal of vaccination is to protect both the visitor and the local population from Yellow Fever disease. Most people who get infected with Yellow fever will get hospitalized with fevers and flu-like symptoms. However a more serious form of Yellow fever can result in massive internal bleeding and organ failure, whereby up to 20-50% of the patients die.
Several tropical countries enforce a 6 to 10 day quarantine at their ports of entry, for visitors from endemic regions who refuse to be vaccinated. Visitors from non-endemic regions, for example North America and Europe, present no Yellow fever risk to the local population, however they do remain vulnerable to Yellow fever.
Risks of Yellow Fever vaccination:
The risk of vaccination mainly relates to a person’s immune system, because the vaccine contains a live but weakened form of the Yellow Fever virus. Caution is therefore advised for people older than 60 years and those younger than 6 months of age, because they could develop an overwhelming immune response to the vaccine. Also those who are allergic to eggs, chicken proteins or gelatin should avoid the vaccine because the vaccine contains these products, and therefore may trigger a severe allergic reaction.
Recommendations for the Government to reduce hassle for our visitors:
- The cost of vaccination should be uniform and visibly posted at all ports of entry into Tanzania, and on Tanzanian Embassy websites.
- Ensure safety and quality of the Yellow Fever vaccines at all ports of entry.
- Implement an effective process to approve medical waiver letters especially for visitors from non-tropical and non-endemic countries, and for whom the risk of Yellow Fever vaccination is unacceptably high.
- Provide accurate and uniform information about Yellow Fever vaccination to the public and our visitors, through our Embassies, ports of entry and Media.
Take home messages:
Tanzanian law clearly states the need for Yellow Fever vaccination to protect both the local population and our visitors. The vaccination is both safe and effective for the vast majority of visitors and Tanzanian public. The Government should address the possibility of medical waiver letters for visitors from non-endemic countries.
Visitors to Tanzania can get vaccinated in their home countries and carry proof of vaccination with their passports; or they can get vaccinated at our ports of entry. The vaccination becomes fully active in 10 days, and remains active for 10 years!
Safe travels and Karibuni Sana Tanzania!