In preparation for my upcoming trip to Costa Rica in the end of November, I was confirming all of my flight, hotel, and transportation details. I double-checked the visa requirements, and realized I’d made a big error.
On the Costa Rica embassy page, there’s the typical stuff about the tourist visa. Americans don’t need visas, but they do need a ticket exiting Costa Rica (which I have). All the way down at the bottom of the page, though…
“5. Yellow Fever Vaccine
If you will be traveling to Costa Rica from South America and/or sub-Saharan Africa, you will need theYELLOW FEVER VACCINE. The countries considered at risk are: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon,Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia,Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru,Guyana and Venezuela. You can travel to Costa Rica ten days after the shot. Exceptions“
I leave in less than three weeks and began scrambling to find a clinic to do my vaccine.
I started looking into private, specialized vaccine clinics (fearing the worst after my recent Rio hospital run-in). They were actually really, really hard to find on Google! I asked my handy Facebook expat groups for help, but one recommended clinic was no longer in operation, and the others weren’t offering the vaccine, so I wandered from clinic to clinic – putting my minimal Portuguese skills to good use as no one spoke English. Finally, I went into a hospital and asked there. The nurse pointed me to Kinder Vaccine Clinic. Upon arrival, the nurse explained that private clinics cannot give the certificate I need for travel, though they can perform the vaccine (WHAT?!). The only option if a vaccine certificate is needed (like for me, for travel to Costa Rica), is to go to the Posto de Saude. The nurse recommended the location in Gavea, and that I go in the afternoon, so that it would be less busy. Maybe the only bright side? The yellow fever vaccine at a Posto de Saude is FREE!
The private hospital I’d gone to in October was a nightmare, how bad would the public clinic be? With no other option, since I REALLY want to go to Costa Rica and everything is already booked, I hailed a cab.
The driver had no idea where the Posto de Saude of Gavea was located, so we drove around for a bit asking pedestrians for directions. Eventually – success!
The Posto de Saude for the yellow fever vaccine to Costa Rica was located behind dilapidated, rusting colored metal gates. The complex is semi-outdoors, with the waiting spaces outside under awnings.
the Posto de Saude waiting “room”
It reminded me of an abandoned hospital (a la Jurassic Park), as the forest seemed to be taking back over, and plants sprouted everywhere.
The signs are all in Portuguese, so bring a friend or a dictionary. With the help of a friendly officer, I found my way to the immunizations room (Room #12).
everything about the Yellow Fever Vaccine… in Portuguese
I waited for about an hour until I was called in, handed over my passport, and answered a few simple questions. An English-speaking couple with a newborn were also waiting for vaccines, and helped me with a few questions I didn’t understand. Bing bang boom, the nurse grabbed a wad of cotton, brushed off my arm, and injected the vaccine. She even double checked to be sure that I was receiving all of the vaccines suggested for travel to Costa Rica.
Another 30 minutes later (for the creation of the international certificate), and I was all set!
Overall, while the Posto de Saude looked a bit sketchy, it was a much better, more organized and efficient experience than with the private clinic! Everyone I encountered was super nice and friendly, and patient with my poor Portuguese.
Best of all? The rumors are correct – the yellow fever vaccine at a posto de saude is free!
Need to Know about Getting Your FREE Yellow Fever Vaccine Certificate in Rio de Janeiro:
Location: Centro Municipal de Saúde Píndaro de Carvalho Rodrigues
Phone Numbers: (21) 2274-2796, (21) 2274-6977
Located on: Av. Padre Leonel Franca, Gávea, Rio de Janeiro
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (I wouldn’t count on it)
I was told at the clinic that the hours are until 8pm, but the website says 5pm, and sometimes Saturdays, so as with most public services in Brazil, it’s best to double check by calling!
Many immunizations are offered, and the Posto de Saude also treats illnesses. Most services are free.
UPDATE 12-14-2015: It was required to show yellow fever vaccination certificate for entrance into Costa Rica. So, don’t skip this step if you’re coming from a certificate-required country (like I was from Brazil)
UPDATE 05-05-2016: It was also required to show the yellow fever vaccination certificate for entrance into Bolivia, as an American.
UPDATE 06-06-2017: I’ve received a reader report that Centro Especial de Vacinação Dr. Álvaro Aguiar (this clinic) can also give the vaccine and provide the official certificate needed for entrance, for free.