The International Vaccine Certification, also known as yellow fever vaccination certificate or International Certificate of Prophylaxis, is a basic document to travel to certain countries, specially in the African Central-Southern American countries. It is a yellowish booklet that you will need to certify that you’ve taken the needed vaccines at the border (not having it where it is mandatory will cause you to be denied entrance).
It is written (in English or French), signed by a doctor and sealed by the approved Vaccination Centre (only certain ones are valid).
When is it mandatory to get the Vaccination certificate
In general, there are two mandatory vaccines that require the International Vaccination Certificate in translated format (the yellow boklet):
- Yellow Fever, needed to travel to risk zones* and if you are coming from or connecting through a country where the sickness is
- Meningococcal disease (meningitis) if you are traveling to Saudi Arabia at the pilgrimmage season to Mecca
Each country sets its own vaccination to tourists and visitors alike, according to their own needs, risks and endemic sicknesses, so it is better to check if you need any other vaccines at your destination. But those extra vaccination records are not usually added to the International Certification. For example, Spain won’t give you this certificate unless it is for the Yellow Fever, even if you go to their public centres for International Travelers to get your vaccines.
* Note: Some countries where there is yellow fever: Angola, Argentina, Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Camerún, República Centroafricana, Colombia, Congo, Ivory Coast, Chad, Ecuador, Etihopia, Gabón, Gambia, Ghana, French Guayana, Guayana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Panamá, Paraguay, Perú, Ruanda, Senegal, Sierra leona, Sudán, Surinam, Togo, Trinidad y Tobago, Uganda and Venezuela.
Where to get the vaccine certification to travel
It depends on the country where you get your vaccine. Most of them have official Travel Clinics that offer it. In Spain they are called “Centro de Vacunación Internacional”, in the US as Stamaril or travel clinics, in the UK they are Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres (YFVCs).
These centres are also specializaed in travelers and might be a great resource to get prepared to travel.
HOw / when to get your vaccine
If you are traveling to, through or from any of the countries with yellow fever (or to Mecca as a pilgrim), take into account that you have to plan ALL your vaccines with time enough:
- Most travel centres can provide you with all of the needed vaccine (depending on your insurance or national health program some will be free and others not) but some have to order them before you go (or you have to buy them in advance).
- Take into account that some vaccines might cause a reaction and it’s better to go through it at home. Also vaccines as the ones for Hepatitis have several doses and the one for yellow fever is recommended to be taken at least 10 days before you travel.
- Most travel centres (if not all) require an appointment and in some areas the waiting list takes months (specially near the summer/travel season).
- Appointments are for each person traveling, the yellow card and the travel health recommendations are per person.
- Some people should not get the vaccine, check with your travel centres if you are pregnant, have allergies to egg protein, or immune deficits. You will need a medical certificate explaining why you cannot bring your yellow card.
- Some countries will ask for the certificate before you enter the country (to grant your visa, for example).
If you already have your vaccines from previous travels, you don’t have to repeat them and in some countries, the national vaccine document will get you set for all but yellow fever.
How long does the yellow fever certificate last (and the immunity)
Each vaccine has its own immunity frame. For the yellow fever, it is now valid forever (you don’t need to retake it). Older ones might have a validity date, but if they are issued by any of the State members of the WHO, they have become valid for the life of the owner.
Additional information at the site of the World Health Organization.