GRI Current Events Blog

United States’ Yellow Fever Vaccine in Short Supply

GRI Research Assistant

May. 3, 2017

Brazil currently finds itself in the middle of a Yellow Fever outbreak. The virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, has symptoms that can range from fever, chills, and headaches to jaundice and organ failure. In recent months, the virus has killed 240 people, prompting the World Health Organization to send Brazil 3.5 million doses of the Yellow Fever vaccine from its emergency stockpile.

Vaccine (Wikimedia Commons/National Cancer Institute)

The reemergence of the illness in Brazil is concerning in itself but it also poses serious a risk to travelers from the United States. On April 28, U.S. health officials warned that the country’s supply of the Yellow Fever vaccine will likely run out by the summer. While Yellow Fever has been eradicated in the United States, it is still present in tropical and subtropical countries. According to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, in 2015, eight million U.S. residents traveled to 42 countries in which the virus is present. Currently, the vaccine is recommended for anyone travelling to parts of South America and Africa and 20 countries require proof of vaccination in order to enter the country.

The CDC has attributed the vaccine shortage to a “manufacturing complication” that occurred when Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccine manufacturer for the U.S., moved to a new facility and a large number of doses were lost. The company plans to resume production of its vaccine in mid-2018. In the meantime, the CDC has been working with the FDA and Sanofi Pasteur to expand access to the French-made Stamaril which is  licensed in over 70 countries and considered as equally effective as the U.S. version, but is unlicensed in the United States. As Stamaril has not been tested in the United States, it will be available in only 250 clinics, compared to 4,000 currently giving Yellow Fever vaccines, as its use has to be carefully monitored. In recent years, the demand for the Yellow Fever vaccine has grown from five million doses a year pre-2000 to 34 million doses per year after 2007.

Sources and Further Reading:

  1. Brazil Yellow Fever Outbreak Spawns Alert: Stop Killing the Monkeys – The New York Times
  2. Yellow Fever – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  3. U.S. Yellow Fever Vaccine Supply Will be Gone by this Summer, but CDC has a Plan – The Washington Post
  4. CDC Working to Maintain Yellow Fever Vaccine Supply – Occupational Health and Safety
  5. S. Doesn’t Have Enough Yellow Fever Vaccine for Travelers – Skift
  6. Yellow Fever Vaccine: Current Supply Outlook – UNICEF Supply Division

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