Update 27 October 2018: A few readers have written in to update us on the current state of the yellow fever vaccine in Panama. Make sure to read the bottom for the latest updates.
How to Get the Yellow Fever Vaccine in Panama
One of my top priorities when I arrived in Panama was to get a yellow fever vaccine in preparation for my upcoming travel in Africa. I heard it was cheap and easy to get there compared to a relatively costly exercise in my home of Brisbane, Australia. The yellow fever vaccine in Australia costs $75 plus a consultation fee of $85. Cost of the vaccine in Panama is only $5 so if you're going to be in the region anyway then you should consider taking advantage of the savings!
This proved to be easier said then done once I actually got there as there is not a lot of information online on where the vaccine is available. Since only select clinics provide it, I also struggled to get much info from locals since in Panama, yellow fever isn't really an issue and you don't need those shots for Panama.
Now that I’ve personally gone through the process, I thought I would put some specific instructions together for anyone who needs to do the same. As with any medical procedure, be sure to consult a medical professional and be up to date with the relevant travel advice for the region in which you are travelling.
If you’re looking for travel health information and advice check out the Bemused Backpacker website. It's run by a nurse and also has an online travel clinic service. Although I’ve not used the service I enjoy reading the articles on travel health.
All you need to know to get the Yellow Fever Vaccine
The clinic is called Region Metropolitana de Salud
Cost of vaccine is $5
You need to take your passport with you
Opening hours are from 8 am to 3:45 pm
It is closed for lunch between 12 pm and 1 pm
Staff stop taking payments at 2 pm so get there well before
No shorts or singlets allowed in the clinic
Getting there and back
Finding your way to the clinic is easy once you know where it is. You can take a bus, catch a taxi or order an Uber.
The bus is just $0.25 each way, but you will need a MetroBus card. A taxi will cost you $5 each way from Albrook and a bit more from wherever you are staying.If you're willing to get an Uber this will be even easier for you as the address is now in Google Maps so you can just jump into your Uber and sit back and relax.
The address is:
Region Metropolitana de Salud
Detras del SPI
Catching the bus
If you decide you would like to have the adventure of the bus ride and save even more pennies then catching the bus is relatively easy. Just don't do like I did and get off too early!
You can take a bus from Albrook Bus Station and you can take either the Ciudad de Saber route or the Miraflores route. The Ciudad de Saber route is going to be a slightly longer ride on the way to the clinic. I also saw more Miraflores buses leaving the terminal, but you can safely take whichever leaves first.
You can catch either route back and they’ll both be the same distance on the return journey to Albrook.
At Albrook station both routes have their lines located all the way at the end of the terminal, near the Movistar signs. If you get lost or need some help just ask someone in a fluoro green vest.
The stop to look out for is called “Corazon”. I used Google Maps to help me figure out where to get off, but some of the buses have an automatic announcement with each stop. You can also ask the driver to let you know when to get off.
Note: The bus stop to get back should be right across the road. Look out for it when you jump off so you know where you're going on teh way back.
The Metrobus website is actually quite helpful and can show you the route that you’ll be taking. It also has general information on getting around the city.
Finding the health centre
Once you get off the bus there should be a street that you can see with a sign for Servicio De Proteccion Institucional or SPI.
Keep heading up that street through a suburban looking area and you will eventually get to the Region Metropolitana de Salud. There should be a couple of signs along the way, so you know you’re heading in the right direction.
There is a guard booth at the entrance and as you walk down the driveway you should see a building on your left and a building a bit further down on your right.
Head to the building on the left where you can see a window. The entrance is towards the rear of the building. This is where you will show your passport and pay the $5 fee for the vaccine.
Once you’ve paid and gotten your receipt, head to the building that was on your right. Walk into the ground floor area and head to the second door on the left. There are some chairs along the wall at the side, but you should be able to head right in.
This is where you will get your shot. Have your passport ready to hand to the nurses, so they can fill out your yellow fever certification. This process should take no longer than 5 minutes. I got there just after 1pm and there were only 2 other people who came in after me.
That’s it! Hopefully this makes it super easy for you to get your yellow fever vaccine while in Panama City. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions. If you decide to try this, please also leave a comment below to let us know how it went and if anything has changed.
Latest updates from recent travelers to Panama
Update 23/10/2018: “Hi, I wanted to give you another update as I got vaccinated last week. I really appreciated all of the information you had on your site so I wanted to help with up to day information (although I am sure it will change again, so be prepared for anything!)
The notification that was up regarding specific countries is no longer there, there is a new notice as of March 2018 stating that if you are a foreigner trying to get the vaccine you need to have proof of travel but it can be to any country in the Americas. It is still $100 for foreigners and $20 for residents. There were about 15 of us there first thing in the morning to get the vaccine, but the whole process was quick and well organized.” Carolyn K.
Update 13/02/2018: I received the below advice from a reader on recent changes to the cost and new requirements for travellers:
"I have read your blog post on getting vaccinated in Panama. I went there today and sadly everything changed in the last months. They now charge 20 B for locals and 100 B for foreigners (due to alleged shortages in the vaccine stocks).
Furthermore, they require printed proof of travel (plane or anything else) to one of the countries listed by them (I am enclosing 2 pics I took today at the Region Metropolitana De Salud). The countries listed in black pen (Bahama, Jamaica, Guyana, Nicaragua, Brasil, Nigeria and Honduras) are the only ones officially requiring proof of vaccination according to Panama’s government (I couldn't get any vaccine saying I am going to Sapzurro, Colombia, an area that should require the vaccine).
At this time I was told there is no other clinic offering the vaccine in Panama City." Paola B.