You do not NEED the Yellow Fever vaccination and certificate if you enter Kenya from the UK, Europe or North America. It is recommended by health authorities but is not compulsory.

It is your choice whether to have it or not. You will not be asked for the certificate if you go directly to Kenya from the UK, Europe or North America and you will never be asked for the certificate on your return trip to these locations.

You will need the certificate if you travel from Kenya to other countries in the Yellow Fever belt such as other sub-Saharan African countries. Certain countries with tropical climates, for example Australia, India, and Thailand for example, will demand the certificate on entry if you have visited a country in the Yellow Fever belt, such as Kenya, within the previous six days. 

The purpose of the certificate is not for your benefit but to prove that you are not carrying the disease and so cannot introduce it to the country you are entering. As the disease is not endemic and indeed cannot survive in the UK, Europe or North America you will not be asked to produce a certificate when travelling to Kenya or returning home.

Whether you have the vaccination depends on whether you think the risk of contracting the disease warrants the cost and the introduction of a live vaccine into your body.

Most cases of Yellow Fever are a mild infection with fever, headache, chills, back pain, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting.In these cases the infection lasts three to four days. However in about 15% of cases it enters a second, toxic phase of the disease with recurring fever, accompanied by jaundice due to liver damage, as well as abdominal pain. Bleeding in the mouth, the eyes and in the gastrointestinal tract can cause vomits containing blood (giving the name black vomit). Approximately 20% of cases entering the toxic phase end in fatality. The overall fatality rate for the disease is approximately 3% (20% of 15%).

There have been no cases of Yellow Fever in Kenya since 1995. Mass vaccination of locals in the region of the outbreak was carried out and there have been no cases since. However, there was an outbreak in Uganda in December 2010 (the first there for 40 years) about 420 miles from Nairobi, 475 from the Mara and over 700 miles from the coast resorts. The risk of contracting the disease since 1995 has been minimal, whether the outbreak in Uganda will effect this only time will tell. The choice is yours.

If you are in your 50s and think you will visit other countries in Africa or Latin America in future you may wish to discuss the benefits of having the vaccination sooner rather than later with your health professional, as the risk of side effects increases in people over 60 having the vaccination for the first time. However, the risks associated with a booster in the over 60s are much reduced.

In April 2011, the World Health Authority and therefore the UK National Travel Health Network and Centre, NaTHNaC, changed their advice to travellers,  it now says -

"There is a low potential for exposure to yellow fever in the North Eastern province, the states of Kilifi, Kwale, Lamu, Malindi, and Tanariver in Coastal province, and the cities of Nairobi and Mombasa."

Vaccination is now not normally recommended if you are only visiting these areas.

The remaining areas of Kenya are in the red area on the WHO map, which WHO calls the 'endemic' area. They think the disease may be there all the time or may come and go but they also admit ❝the level of transmission may be low and escape detection when only human case surveillance is employed❞. Basically they suspect it is there because they know it is in the countries bordering that area but can't prove it either way, so they err on the side of caution.

In May 2013 the Kenyan Government launched an exercise in association with the WHO and others to gather info to support a case to have Kenya removed from the high-risk list of countries and reclassified as a low-risk or no-risk country.


This article is neither for or against the vaccination, it aims to provide accurate information to enable people to make their own choice.