This is spring break week in Texas. For our travel this week, I had booked a trip to Panama and Nicaragua using United miles. All the itineraries that were offered for our return trip from Panama showed a stopover in Nicaragua. So I decided it might be wise to use the stopover to visit the country. The final itinerary worked out to 3 full days in Panama City and 2.5 days in Managua. Our plan had been to drive to Granada from the airport in Managua and spend the next 2 days sightseeing locally. I have read so much about the natural beauty of Nicaragua that I was really looking forward to this leg of the trip.
We flew to Panama City last Saturday on Avianca through San Salvador and the journey went fine. We had arranged through a taxi company for all our transportation and they didn’t disappoint. We had a good time exploring Panama city and its surroundings.
Wednesday morning found us at the Copa Airlines check-in desk awaiting our next flight to Managua. After greeting us and securing our passports, the agent asked for yellow fever vaccination records. We told him we didn’t have any and reiterated that we were traveling from the US and were in Panama City for a four-day trip only. After discussing with his superiors, the agent told us that it would be best to return to the airport after obtaining the vaccine!
In discussing this further, we discovered that Panama is considered a country with risk of yellow fever transmission (although not the entire country just parts of it). Nicaragua requires proof of yellow fever vaccination, at all ports of entry, if a traveler has spent the last 11 days or less, prior to Nicaragua entry, in countries that are WHO-designated as “potentials for active transmission of yellow fever”. This rule does not apply if you are transiting through the airport for connections or spending 12 hours or less but at the airport only. The other WHO-designated countries, currently include Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guyana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela.
Apparently, this rule went into effect in January 2017 and its interesting that I did not come across this message from the US Embassy in Nicaragua until after this debacle. The message was posted in December 2017.
I am including links to the CDC website about countries with potential for yellow fever transmission. I was aware of the Yellow Fever requirements for travel to Africa but didn’t know its need for travel in South America and Central America. The Yellow fever vaccine has to be administered at least ten days prior to the trip. It does have certain adverse effects and is expensive to administer. Current guidelines recommend only one dose for lifetime protection.
Do read up on this vaccine requirements prior to your own travel. It wouldn’t do to miss a trip to a beautiful country like we did because of one oversight. We were able to re-book our flights back to Dallas for the following day. More on that in our Panama series.
Until then, safe travels!
3 thoughts on “Travel alert: Check Yellow fever vaccine requirements prior to South and Central America travel”
If you are already in a South American country, you can get your yellow fever vaccination administered at the public health offices. We got ours in Sucre, Bolivia, for free. If you wish to get it stamped in the international vaccination booklet, you can cheaply acquire one. At most of the smaller boarder posts you can compensate for a missing vaccination stamp by paying a small fee to the official. Of course this is only to avoid not being allowed to enter. It’s a bribe. You should still get the vaccination at first opportunity – in your own and the interest of others!
Travelkatx, thank you for the good info. One of the hotel staff mentioned a place in the Panama city area that offers this vaccine as well, for a small price. The thought of offering a small bribe did cross my mind, if only for a moment. But I know I couldn’t have done it, in all honesty. This is a public health issue and we all need to do our part. So, onto finding the vaccine!