Yellow Fever Certificates Now Valid For the Lifetime of a Vaccinated Person

I f you have had remorse over spending a lot of money for a vaccination to protect you against yellow fever, you are in luck, as the international certificate of vaccination against yellow fever is now valid for the life of the person vaccinated effective as of Monday July 11, 2016 as officially amended and directed by the World Health Organization — and this lifetime validity applies automatically to all existing and new certificates beginning ten days after the date of vaccination.

The validity of the international certificate of vaccination for yellow fever was formerly for a maximum of ten years.

Accordingly — as of Monday July 11, 2016 — revaccination or a booster dose of yellow fever vaccine will not be required for international travellers as a condition of entry into a State Party, regardless of the date that their international certificate of vaccination was initially issued.

Yellow Fever Certificates Now Valid For the Lifetime of a Vaccinated Person

Here is the complete text of the official announcement, which was released yesterday from the World Health Organization:

In May 2014, The World Health Assembly adopted an amendment to Annex 7 of the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR), which stipulates that the period of protection afforded by yellow fever vaccination, and the term of validity of the certificate will change from 10 years to the duration of the life of the person vaccinated. On 11 July 2016, the amended IHR Annex 7 entered into force and is legally binding upon all IHR States Parties. The revised Third Edition of the IHR includes this amended text.

Thus, from 11 July 2016 the certificate of vaccination against yellow fever is valid for the life of the person vaccinated. This lifetime validity applies automatically to all existing and new certificates, beginning 10 days after the date of vaccination. Accordingly, as of 11 July 2016, revaccination or a booster dose of yellow fever vaccine will not be required for international travellers as a condition of entry into a State Party, regardless of the date that their international certificate of vaccination was initially issued.

Yellow fever is the only disease specified in the IHR for which countries may require proof of vaccination from travellers as a condition of entry under certain circumstances. Likewise, countries may take certain measures if an arriving traveller is not in possession of such a certificate.

Currently, valid IHR international certificates of vaccination are now automatically valid for life of the traveller indicated. Nothing needs to be modified in the certificate; indeed under the IHR, any changes, deletions, erasures or additions may cause a certificate to be rendered invalid.

For new certificates, WHO encourages countries to use words that clearly and unambiguously indicate that the validity of the certificate is for the life of the person vaccinated. In this context, in order to avoid potential confusion and interruption of international travel, WHO suggests using the same terminology in the certificate as adopted in the revised text of Annex 7, which clearly states that the certificates are valid for life.

In accordance with the IHR requirement that these certificates be completed in English or French (and may also be completed in another language in addition to English or French), the terminology used in the revised Annex 7 is as follows:

English: “life of person vaccinated”

French: “vie entière du sujet vacciné”

WHO will continue to report on the list of countries that have yellow fever transmission and those with yellow fever vaccination requirements for travellers.

A document containing frequently asked questions pertaining to the amendment — which you can download the Portable Document Format file here — contains the official change:

Requirements Concerning Vaccination or Prophylaxis For Specific Diseases

1. In addition to any recommendation concerning vaccination or prophylaxis, the following diseases are those specifically designated under these Regulations for which proof of vaccination or prophylaxis may be required for travellers as a condition of entry to a State Party:

Vaccination against yellow fever.

2. Recommendations and requirements for vaccination against yellow fever:

(a) For the purpose of this Annex:

(i) the incubation period of yellow fever is six days;

(ii) yellow fever vaccines approved by WHO provide protection against infection starting 10 days following the administration of the vaccine;

(iii) this protection continues for the life of the person vaccinated; and

(iv) the validity of a certificate of vaccination against yellow fever shall extend for the life of the person vaccinated, beginning 10 days after the date of vaccination.

Protect Yourself From Yellow Fever

You can protect yourself from yellow fever by getting the yellow fever vaccine and preventing mosquito bites. The following advice — complete with links — is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Get the Yellow Fever Vaccine

Visit a yellow fever vaccination (travel) clinic and ask for a yellow fever vaccine.

  • You should receive this vaccine at least ten days before your trip.
  • After receiving the vaccine, you will receive a signed and stamped International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP, sometimes called the “yellow card”), which you must bring with you on your trip.
  • For most travelers, one dose of the vaccine lasts for a lifetime. Consult a travel medicine provider to see if additional doses of vaccine may be recommended for you based on specific risk factors.
  • In rare cases, the yellow fever vaccine can have serious and sometimes fatal side effects. People older than 60 years and people with weakened immune systems might be at higher risk of developing these side effects. Also, there are special concerns for pregnant and nursing women. Talk to your doctor about whether you should get the vaccine.

Prevent Mosquito Bites

  • Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants.
  • Use an EPA-registered insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), or IR3535. Always use as directed.
    • If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second.
    • Pregnant and breastfeeding women can use all EPA-registered insect repellents, including DEET, according to the product label.
    • Most repellents — including DEET — can be used on children aged older than two months.
    • Follow package directions when applying repellent on children. Avoid applying repellent to their hands, eyes, and mouth.
  • Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents). You can buy pre-treated clothing and gear or treat them yourself:
    • Treated clothing remains protective after multiple washings. See the product information to find out how long the protection will last.
    • If treating items yourself, follow the product instructions carefully.
    • Do not use permethrin directly on skin.
  • Stay and sleep in screened or air conditioned rooms.
  • Use a bed net if the area where you are sleeping is exposed to the outdoors.

Clinician Information

Additional Information

Summary

This is excellent news for anyone who travels — especially to places around the world where yellow fever may be prevalent. One example is Angola, which had been experiencing its first epidemic of yellow fever in approximately 30 years. As of Friday, April 8, 2016, at least 1,562 suspected and confirmed cases — including 225 deaths — had been reported in at least six of the 18 provinces in the country due to the ongoing outbreak, which was first reported in the capital city of Luanda in December of 2015.

While the situation is not dire enough to warrant avoiding nonessential travel to Angola altogether, significant caution needs to be exercised — especially as cases of yellow fever have been exported by travelers during the current outbreak to countries which include China, Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya; and Namibia and Zambia are on high alert for imported cases.

I received my yellow fever vaccination last year prior to departing for Kenya to enjoy going on safari; and although I seemingly ultimately did not need it — I was never bitten by a mosquito, surprisingly; and none of the officials in the countries which I visited bothered to even look at my signed and stamped International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis — I am now glad I have it in case I return yet again to Africa, as the signed and stamped International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis is now valid for the rest of my life.

Now that the international certificate of vaccination for yellow fever is good for a lifetime, you should consider getting your yellow fever vaccine as a precautionary measure in case you travel to a country which may be affected by it. The total cost of a yellow fever vaccine can typically range from $150.00 to $350.00 depending on where you go. Shop around for the best price; and ensure that proper officially recognized international certification — such as the example shown in the photograph at the top of this article — is included with the vaccination.

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

3 thoughts on “Yellow Fever Certificates Now Valid For the Lifetime of a Vaccinated Person”

  1. Boraxo says:

    That is good news for travelers to Angola and Nigeria where you will be asked to produce your yellow fever vaccination card upon arrival. Travelers without a card will be offered a needle.

    Would be interested to hear from anyone who has recently visited these countries as to whether the news has been disseminated to the officials who man the checkpoint.

  2. Alex says:

    I had to get my yellow fever vaccine two weeks ago at the Johannesburg airport for about $54 per person when departing to Brazil. Note of caution, I don’t believe Brazil requires yellow fever vaccine of US citizens entering from US, it is a requirement of coming from South Africa and other areas where the threat of yellow fever is higher.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      $54.00 per person is a bargain compared to what a yellow fever vaccination costs in many parts of the United States, Alex.

      Thank you for the information.

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