The Cartagena Journals: Salsa Lessons and Yellow Fever Vaccines

Tuesday

When I woke up Tuesday morning, my plan for the day was to eat more. I hadn’t been eating enough food and drinking enough fluids since I’d been in Cartagena. I made a sandwich with the groceries I purchased the day before and drank a cup of tea before departing my Airbnb for the first stop on my itinerary – the health department for a free yellow fever vaccine. The yellow fever vaccine was required for a lot of the countries on my top 10 list, including Brazil, Rwanda, and Ghana. The U.S. was charging nearly $300 for the vaccine, and I refused to allow Big Pharma to profit off me with that exorbitant markup. In many Central and South American countries, the cost of the vaccine is minimal.

I headed straight to the Departamento Administrativo Distrital de Salud (DADIS) around the corner from my Airbnb. In broken Spanish, I told the woman at the front desk I was there for a yellow fever vaccine, and she asked for my passport. She wrote my passport information on a form, handed me a number, and told me to take a seat. There were a handful of people already in the small waiting area, and I sat waiting about an hour before my number was called.

I went into an exam room with three nurses. One asked if I was allergic to anything, how old I was, and where I was staying. For people with limited Spanish, there was a cheat sheet with the English translation. Meanwhile, another nurse had already put the vaccine in the needle, wiped an area of my arm with alcohol, and stuck me. The vaccine was manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur, the same manufacturer of the yellow fever vaccine in the U.S., and the shot wasn’t painful at all. The nurse confirmed the vaccine was good for life, gave me the yellow fever card along with a white slip, and sent me on my way. I gave the slip to the woman at the front desk, and I was done. The entire process was simple and free. I walked out of the health department grinning while thinking about all of the countries I could visit since I now had a yellow fever card. This might have been the highlight of my trip.

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