Sunday, 14 July 2013

Yellow Fever Blues Vanquished


I am off to Nigeria in a few weeks' time on a University mission. We had been asked to help develop nurse education for Nigerian nurses. I was given a list of things that I was required to do and had to tick the boxes as each requirement was completed. One of these was to get a Yellow Fever vaccination and Certificate in readiness for acquiring a visa. Google said I could only get the vaccination at a special travel clinic, but fortunately there was one not far from where I lived.

I rang up and made an appointment for 08.00 and turned up on day 10 minutes early. I enjoyed a lovely early morning conversation with a wonderful pharmacy assistant who told me she had been preparing and filling prescriptions since 07.30. 08.00 came and went and there was still only me and the pharmacy assistant in the room. 08.10 appeared on the clock and finally the reception blinds went up and I was asked 'what I wanted'. I politely pointed to the clock, now showing 08.15 and said 'I had a 08.00 appointment for a Yellow Fever vaccination'.

After giving her my name she looked on her computer, which apparently said No, and she said 'I didn't have a 08.00 appointment'. It was a moot point really as the clock now stood at 08.18. After another few minutes of looking a scrap of paper was found with my name and details on it which appeared to confirm I did have an appointment and I was ushered into the treatment room to meet Sister Sandy. Her clock said 08.25. 'I'm off to Nigeria shortly and I am here for a 08.00 appointment to have a Yellow Fever vaccination' I said.

'Well fill in this form while I look up whether visitors to Nigeria require a Yellow Fever vaccination or not' Sister Sandy said. I was handed a form that asked for my temporary address and my permanent address. Now I don’t have a temporary address so used my office number and the name of the University building instead which seemed to satisfy Sister Sandy. At 08.32 she told me I didn't need a Yellow Fever vaccination to visit Nigeria. Now I am not someone who easily becomes exasperated but this was the second time in as many minutes a computer had said No.

I told sister Sandy that 'I had an instruction from my University that says get a Yellow Fever vaccination, I don’t want to end up at a border having goodness knows what pumped into my arm and being charged £500 for the privilege - so let’s do a deal'. Using my most persuasive voice I said, 'I will give you the £60 and you just give me the vaccination and we can all go our separate ways happy'. Glaring at me in silence she gave me the vaccination and at 08.40 I left her treatment room and went to pay for it.

The receptionist said she would prefer it if 'I paid by card', but when she tried to connect, for the third time that morning a computer said No. So I paid by cash, got the certificate stamped and at 08.55 finally left the surgery. Being a man, I hadn't looked at the instructions for Yellow Fever vaccination before having it done and it was only after spending 24 hours feeling nauseas, enduring a pounding headache, aching limbs and also generally biting everyone’s head off, that I went n-line and discovered these were fairly common side effects. 

Much to my horror I also discovered that 4 in every 1 million vaccination doses given results in a neurological condition known as yellow fever vaccine-associated neurological disease (YEL-AND), a particularly nasty disease. The risk for those who are 60 years or over is much higher, 1 in every 50,000 people. This represents the highest risk of any vaccine currently in use. But I wasn't going back to see Sister Sandy to discuss this.

Thankfully, as I write this, some 78 hours after having the vaccination, I am feeling much better. Apologies to anyone whose head I might have bitten off since the middle of last week. Normal service is resumed.