The vaccine for the dreaded yellow fever has not been available in the State for the past three months, even though vaccination is mandatory for those travelling to any of the 44 listed countries in Africa and South America where the disease is endemic.
The only authorised centre at the Port Health Office for administering the vaccine in the State has not received any supplies for the past seven months.
Those seeking to travel to yellow fever endemic countries do not have the option of buying it in the open market now as the supplies have not been coming from private manufacturers as well.
The Port Health Officer had issued over 400 certificates to people travelling to these countries stating that the Indian government does not have supplies of the vaccine and that they may be administered the vaccine at an approved centre in the visiting country where a certificate of having administered the vaccine may be issued.
Those travelling without the Health Officer’s certificate may fall prey to agents in the visiting country where they may be fleeced if they do not seek the “right” person for the vaccination.
The Port Health Office had been receiving many queries on the telephone and mail regarding the availability of the vaccine. The Airport Medical Officer clarified that vaccination can be administered only at a government facility and no private hospital issuing the certificate of vaccination would be valid in one’s own country after one returns from travel to yellow fever endemic countries and the traveller is liable to be quarantined.
The vaccine is a safety precaution as the disease can be fatal. In all countries where yellow fever is endemic, the vaccine is prescribed for infants at 6 months and that gives life-long protection.
Those returning after visiting any of the listed 44 countries without having taken the vaccination are quarantined for a specific period in countries where they are natives. However, foreigners without the vaccine certificate are generally deported back.
People going to African countries are queuing up in Mumbai for the vaccine shot. Some private manufacturers had made available limited stocks here last month, which were over quickly. Travellers seeking jobs in these countries are the most affected as they have to travel to Mumbai and wait for days to get vaccinated.
“We are trying to source the vaccine from Mumbai as one of our clergy is leaving for Africa,” said Father Sabu, director, Lourdes Hospital. No stocks are available here, he said. Kerala, which is under a dengue fever outbreak for the past three months, needs to be high on alert as the dengue fever carrier Aedes aegyptii is the vector foryellow fever too. Any lapse in quarantine may lead to the risk of the virus getting transmitted here too.