Travel vaccinations in the age of covid
July 3, 2022 10:22 AM   Subscribe

How bad is it to get vaccinated for other diseases like yellow fever after a Covid exposure? I'll share a detailed timeline and am hoping you can help me weigh the risks on each side.

Yesterday, 6/2, I had lunch indoors with someone who later tested positive for covid. They had tested negative at 9am, we ate around 1, and then they tested positive at 6pm.

I'm scheduled to travel for work to a few West African countries in 2 weeks, leaving 6/17.

I have an appointment scheduled for Tuesday, 6/5, to get vaccinations like yellow fever and typhoid. I've seen guidance that it takes 10 days before the yellow fever shot fully takes effect.

Which is the greater risk?:
The scenario I need help thinking through is: what if I'm negative for covid the day of my appointment, get the shots, then become symptomatic for covid a day or two later?
Multiple people I know developed fevers after taking their yellow fever shots. I'm worried about weakening my body's defenses and potentially making my course of covid worse?

That might point to delaying my appointment to be more certain I don't have covid when getting the shots, but if I delay my appointment, the timeline is tight, and it seems unlikely I'd be fully vaccinated for yellow fever before the trip.

(Of course, if I test positive on Tues, I'd cancel the appointment, eat the late cancel fee, and probably reschedule for once I'm healed.)
posted by estlin to Health & Fitness (5 answers total)
I would call the travel clinic and/or your doctor ASAP. For yellow fever, there are a number of countries where you will not be allowed to enter at the airport without your yellow card - it is as necessary as a passport.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 11:42 AM on July 3, 2022

Sorry - that was hasty. I would not delay the appointment in advance because, if you get COVID, there may be other decisions that need to get made about the ultimate decision to travel in two weeks *beyond* whether you are able to get your yellow fever and typhoid vaccines. If you don’t test positive the morning of your appointment, but still are worried you might have been infected/that there might be negative effects to being vaccinated for these other diseases after COVID exposure, a doctor or nurse at the travel clinic will likely have been dealing with those same questions for the past two years.

If you’re in the US, you might not get an answer before 6/5, since today is a Sunday and tomorrow a national holiday, but the clinic might have a non-emergency on-call line (or your health insurance might have a teledoc service - I know that both Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Kaiser do this now).

Speaking as someone who worked in yellow-fever endemic countries for a number of years, the likelihood of you getting yellow fever is probably quite low, especially if you will be visiting major cities and taking normal mosquito protections (spray, bed nets). This means that the 10-day protection window for the yellow fever vaccine is less of a concern than the window for developing a fever/other vaccine side effects and trying to navigate international travel with those side effects.

I hope you don’t get sick and have an amazing trip!
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 11:59 AM on July 3, 2022 [2 favorites]

I had the opposite problem - I had a trip to Brazil coming up, and we only realised a week before that the area we were going was now a yellow fever risk area. Unfortunately, I was just over a bout of Covid, so the company doctor wouldn’t recommend giving me a yellow fever vaccination as it would have been too risky as it’s a live vaccine, and I’d an already weakened immune system. He did recommend it to my colleague though, despite it not being 10 days before, on the grounds that some immunity was better than nothing.

For various reasons (short trip, urban area, late autumn), the risk was pretty low, so I went anyway, but with anti-mosquito spray (and was fine). However, Brazil doesn’t require the yellow card unless you are coming from particular areas.
posted by scorbet at 12:00 PM on July 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

If the country requires you to get the yellow card, then you'll need to get it to enter (though I know of a few people who bribed their way past this requirement, but I wouldn't recommend doing that, especially since this is for work). FWIW, I had zero reaction to getting the yellow fever vaccination - I have no idea how common my experience was, but this is something the travel clinic should know.
posted by coffeecat at 1:07 PM on July 3, 2022

Response by poster: Thank you!! I called the clinic last week and got my shots - no symptoms, even from the yellow fever. Appreciate you answering.
posted by estlin at 9:24 PM on July 12, 2022

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