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“World Cup fever” not a problem despite vaccine shortages says PHC

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By Gareth MacDonald+

Last updated on 09-Jun-2014 at 15:30 GMT

Yellow fever at the world cup in Brazil?
Yellow fever at the world cup in Brazil?

Fans heading for the World Cup in Brazil should still consider getting vaccinated against yellow fever according to Public Health England (PHC), which says manufacturing problems at Sanofi Pasteur MSD will not restrict access.

The 2014 World Cup kicks off on Thursday when hosts Brazil play Croatia, but England fans travelling to the country for their team's opening clash with Italy on Saturday can still protect themselves according to Geraldine Oliver from the UK National Travel Health Network & Centre.

Oliver told “We would stress the importance of all those travelling to the World Cup to seek timely travel health advice. We generally advise seeking advice a minimum of 4 to 6 weeks prior to travelling, but last minute consultations are still worthwhile.”

The mosquito-borne Yellow fever virus is the big concern for football fans going to Brazil, particularly for supporters of teams playing first round matches in the northern state of Amazonas where the disease is endemic.

The advice – from both the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Brazilian authorities – is that supporters get themselves vaccinated before travelling to regions where yellow fever is endemic.

Manufacturing problems

For England fans this means getting a shot of Starmaril made by Sanofi Pasteur and MSD, which is the only licensed yellow fever vaccine approved in the UK.

How easy getting the vaccine will be depends on who you ask.

According to Health Protection Scotland’s “fit to travel ” website, in September last year Sanofi experienced delays to the Stramaril manufacturing process that interrupted supplies of the single-dose version of the product.

Similarly, a report in the UK’s independent newspaper in February this year suggested that Sanofi Pasteur MSD was continuing to limit the quantities of vaccine health authorities can obtain in light of this interruption

Howvever, the UK National Travel Health Network & Centre says while there have been shortages the situation has improved.

Oliver told us that: “There have been supply problems since 2013 concerning yellow fever vaccine, but again, we are not aware of travellers requiring the vaccine who have been unable to obtain it.

She added that: “We have no reason to suspect that demand for vaccines or malaria prophylaxis [also a recommendation for fans travelling to the tournament] is outstripping supply.”

A Sanofi Pateur spokesman confirmed that although the Starmaril delivery delays are ongoing, the firm is trying to source a replacement multi-dose vaccine that it aims to make available by mid-June.

The spokesman declined to go into more details, but did say supplies of the vaccine had been interrupted as a result of an "inherited delay." He also stressed that it is not a "quality issue."

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