Yellow fever card
Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

A Precedent Already Exists for Immunity Passports. It is Called…

One of the ideas which has been surfacing in the news recently in response to the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic which has swept around the world is passengers being required to carry a document known as an immunity passport, which could ease the concerns of both fellow passengers and employees of airlines that they have a reduced chance of contracting the virus.

A Precedent Already Exists for Immunity Passports. It is Called…

An immunity passport would be a document which is issued to any person who has successfully recovered from 2019 Novel Coronavirus, and therefore whose immune systems would theoretically have the antibodies necessary to fight off the virus and prevent a second infection — or perhaps already have the antibodies of the virus without suffering the symptoms of contracting the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.

In addition to several countries which are seriously considering issuing the document, one country — Chile — has already started issuing immunity passports to people who have recovered from the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.

Although an immunity card could possibly help towards knowing which people are vulnerable to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus and which are not — as well as increase confidence in the safety of travel in general — several concerns pertaining to the document include people who purposely attempt to become infected with the 2019 Novel Coronavirus in order to recover and be allowed return to work; possible job discrimination, and a black market for immunity passports.

The International Certificate of Vaccination Against Yellow Fever

Yellow fever card
Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

One precedent already exists for immunity passports: the international certificate of vaccination against yellow fever, which some countries require for entry if you visited a country known to have a problem with yellow fever. Initially only valid for ten years before having to receive the potentially costly yellow fever vaccination again, the international certificate of vaccination against yellow fever is 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.

Angola experienced its worst epidemic of yellow fever in approximately 30 years, which was first reported in the capital city of Luanda in December of 2015; and was declared to have officially ended in December 23, 2016, according to the World Health Organization. The outbreak of yellow fever extended into the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2016.

The outbreak of yellow fever “had caused 962 confirmed cases of yellow fever across the two countries (884 in Angola 78 in DRC) by 16 November 2016, with more than 7300 suspected cases”, according to this article at the official Internet web site of the World Health Organization pertaining to winning the war against yellow fever.

The United States experienced a shortage of the yellow fever vaccine during the first half of 2018.

The yellow fever virus is transmitted by infected mosquitoes. Most people have no symptoms, which may include fever, muscle pain, backache, headache, nausea, vomiting, jaundice, and bleeding from the mouth, nose, eyes or stomach. Vaccination is the most effective way to protect oneself from yellow fever.

Key facts pertaining to yellow fever — according to the World Health Organization — include:

  • Yellow fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes. The “yellow” in the name refers to the jaundice that affects some patients.
  • Symptoms of yellow fever include fever, headache, jaundice, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting and fatigue.
  • A small proportion of patients who contract the virus develop severe symptoms and approximately half of those die within seven to ten days.
  • The virus is endemic in tropical areas of Africa and Central and South America.
  • Large epidemics of yellow fever occur when infected people introduce the virus into heavily populated areas with high mosquito density and where most people have little or no immunity, due to lack of vaccination. In these conditions, infected mosquitoes of the Aedes aegypti specie transmit the virus from person to person.
  • Yellow fever is prevented by an extremely effective vaccine, which is safe and affordable. A single dose of yellow fever vaccine is sufficient to confer sustained immunity and life-long protection against yellow fever disease. A booster dose of the vaccine is not needed. The vaccine provides effective immunity within 10 days for 80 percent to 100 percent of people vaccinated, and within 30 days for greater than 99 percent of people vaccinated.
  • Good supportive treatment in hospitals improves survival rates. There is currently no specific anti-viral drug for yellow fever.
  • The Eliminate Yellow fever Epidemics Strategy launched in 2017 is an unprecedented initiative. With more than 50 partners involved, the EYE partnership supports 40 at-risk countries in Africa and the Americas to prevent, detect, and respond to yellow fever suspected cases and outbreaks. The partnership aims at protecting at-risk populations, preventing international spread, and containing outbreaks rapidly. By 2026, greater than 1 billion people are expected to be protected against the disease.


I am neutral on whether people — especially travelers — should be required to carry immunity passports. I do not believe that the potential negative aspects will outweigh the positive ones.

If I will be required to carry an immunity passport, I hope that the process is implemented in such as way as to be of as little inconvenience as possible without compromising its efficacy.

This article is the latest in a series pertaining to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus — which is also known as COVID-19 or 2019-nCoV or SARS-CoV-2 or HCoV-19 or severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 — pandemic in an effort to get the facts out with information derived from reliable sources…

…as well as attempt to maintain a reasoned and sensible ongoing discussion towards how to resolve this pandemic.

Other articles at The Gate which pertain to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus include:

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

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