Costa Rica’s Yellow Fever Vaccination Requirements Have Changed

One of Sitata’s team members recently received an email with the subject “concern” from a leading Canadian university who happens to be one of our best customers. Uh oh. That’s never a good sign. As far as we could tell, nothing was out of the ordinary. It turns out some of our health advice was brought into question.

The Situation

The university had three students who travelled to Trinidad and Tobago and then onward to Costa Rica. Unfortunately, the students were stopped before they could enter Costa Rica because they did not have their Yellow Fever vaccinations. Here is what Sitata’s original advice stated:

There is no risk of yellow fever transmission. However, this country requires all persons 9 months of age and older to have proof of the yellow fever vaccination if travelling from a country with a risk of yellow fever transmission, including transiting more than 12 hours through an airport in a country with risk of yellow fever transmission. This requirement excludes Argentina, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago.

At Sitata, we use software to monitor all of the authoritative resources automatically. Did something change that we were not aware of? Did something slip through the cracks? Of course, we started investigating immediately. Every source we could find seemed to agree with our stance, including the embassy of Costa Rica in Canada.

Everyone including CDC, WHO, NaTHNaC, and even the Costa Rican Embassy and Costa Rican tourism websites were in agreement. These students should not have been stopped.

So What Happened?

In addition to double-checking the resources available to us, we decided it was best to reach out to the Costa Rican embassy in Canada to get a final say on the matter. After a bit of back and forth, we were informed that a new resolution was implemented on November 4th, 2016 concerning Yellow Fever vaccination requirements. The changes are significant and at the time of writing this article, almost every authoritative source will still need changing.

Here is a summary of the new recommendations from the resolution. You need Yellow Fever vaccine prior to arrival in Costa Rica if you have visited the following countries:

Africa

  • Angola
  • Benin
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burundi
  • Cameroon
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Republic of the Congo
  • Côte d’Ivoire
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Gabon
  • Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Guinea Bissau
  • Kenya
  • Liberia
  • Mali
  • Mauritania
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Senegal
  • Sierra Leone
  • Somalia
  • Republic of South Sudan
  • Sudan
  • São Tomé and Príncipe
  • Tanzania
  • Togo
  • Uganda
  • Zambia

South America

  • Bolivia — Areas at risk include: Andes, Beni, Pando, Santa Cruz, Chuquisaca, Cochabamba, La Paz, the entirety of Tarija.
  • Brazil — Areas at risk include: Acre, Amapá, Amazon, the Federal District including the capital Brasilia, Goiás, Maranhão, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Minas Gerais, Pará, Rondonia, Roraima, Tocatins, Bahía, Paraná, Piauí, Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, Estado de San Pablo, Iguazú falls. Exceptions are: the city of San Pablo in Estado de San Pablo, Fortaleza, Recife, Río de Janeiro, Salvador, San Pablo, and other cities not mentioned in the risk areas.
  • Columbia — Exceptions include: Barranquilla, Cali, Cartagena, Medellín, San Andrés Province, and Bogotá.
  • Ecuador — Montaña de los Andes, Morona-Santiago, Napo, Orellana, Pastaza, Sucumbíos and Zamora-Chinchipe, Esmeraldas, Guayas, Los Rios, Santa Elena, Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, Azuay, Bolívar, Cañar, Carchi, Chimborazo, Cotopaxi, El Oro, Imbabura, Loja, Pichincha, y Tungurahua.
  • French Guiana
  • Peru — Amazon region, Loreto, Madre de Dios, San Martin, Ucayali, Puno, Cusco, Junín, Pasco, and Huánuco, Apurímac, Huancavelica, Ancash, La Libertad, Cajamarca, Ayacucho, Piura, Lambayeque.
  • Venezuela — Exceptions include: Aragua, Carabobo, Miranda, Vargas, Yaracuy, Trujillo, Mérida, Táchira, Los Estados de Facón and Lara, Margarita Island, Caracas (the capital), the city of Valencia, and La Guaira.

Will the border crossing double check with you the exact regions you visited within each country? Who knows.

So what impact does this have on travellers going to Costa Rica? Many tourists might not run into any issues at all because they won’t be coming from a country presumed to have Yellow Fever. However, the new resolution does take a more blanketed approach to its yellow fever vaccination requirements. Even countries that are considered to have a negligible yellow fever risk by other authorities are now included in Costa Rica’s list as a whole. If you’re a traveller entering Costa Rica from another foreign country, you should double check your itinerary against the above list and make sure you obtain the vaccine if necessary.