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What Is “Yellow Card” And Why Am I Being Asked For It Before Travelling Overseas?

“Yellow Card”, as it is popularly called, is the card issued to individuals immunized against Yellow Fever for international travels.

It may also contain other vaccines that the individual had taken. The card is called International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis.

It contains records of information relating to the individuals, the vaccine obtained by the individual and the date and time the vaccine was given, the batch number and the manufacturer.

It is an evidence that an individual is vaccinated with required vaccines, especially Yellow Fever and thus, does not pose any risk of transmitting such diseases to other people or countries.

Just last year (2019), Nigeria announced the introduction of an e-Yellow Card with enhanced security features verifiable anywhere in the world.

What Is Yellow Fever?

Yellow Fever is an acute hemorrhagic fever that is transmitted by infected mosquitoes. The “yellow” in the name describes the jaundice which is usually associated with the presence of the disease.

Acute means that it is of sudden onset and short duration and hemorrhagic means it causes bleeding in different parts of the body.

Jaundice refers to the yellowish discolouration of the white part of the eyes or the skin due to accumulation of excess bilirubin in the body.

Bilirubin is the substance released when red blood cells – the oxygen carrying blood cells – are broken down.

It is a disease that is considered internationally notifiable. In other word, the UN Health Agency and other International Health Regulations Agencies must be informed about the presence of the disease in the country where it is found. This will help to issue travel advice and plan strategies to contain the disease.

You can read more about Yellow Fever and jaundice.

Why Yellow Fever Vaccination?

According to the UN Health Agency, World Health Organization (WHO) , Yellow fever vaccination is done for two main reasons:

  1. It protects against the spread of the disease from one country to another by guarding against countries spreading or importing the Yellow Fever virus.
  2. To protect individuals who are travelling from one place to another or from country to country, who may be at risk of being infected with Yellow Fever virus.

Citizens of which countries require a Yellow Card?

It is the UN Health Agency that determines which countries are at risk of Yellow Fever transmission. So, when citizens of such countries are traveling out, they may require a Yellow Card.

“WHO determines those areas where “a risk of yellow fever transmission is present” on the basis of the diagnosis of cases of yellow fever in
humans and/or animals, the results of yellow fever sero-surveys and the presence of vectors and animal reservoirs.”

Source: WHO

This is to protect such individuals when they get to at-risk-countries and to ensure that when they get back to their country of origin, they don’t bring back Yellow Fever, even though such countries don’t have Yellow Fever transmission.

“Proof of vaccination is often required for
travellers arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission and sometimes for travellers in transit through such countries.”

Source: WHO

Also, when citizens of countries that are not at risk of Yellow Fever transmission are travelling to at-risk-countries, they will require an evidence of vaccination against Yellow Fever – a Yellow Card.

Which countries would ask you for a Yellow Card?

There are some countries that may or may not have Yellow Fever transmission. But in such countries, they have the species of mosquitoes that can serve as reservoir of the virus, and non-humans primates that can help transmit the virus.

If the Yellow Fever virus is imported to such countries, the risk of becoming permanent in such countries are high since there are existing facilitating factors to help the spread. Countries that fall into this category may therefore request that a Yellow Card be produced by travelers from at-risk-countries before they are allowed entrance into such countries.

“The countries that require proof of vaccination
are those where the disease may or may not occur and where the mosquito vector and potential
non-human primate hosts of yellow fever are present. Any importation of the virus into such countries by infected travellers could result in its
propagation and establishment, leading to a permanent risk of infection for the human population.”

Source: WHO

Is Yellow Fever Vaccine Safe?

WHO has done extensive work on Yellow Fever vaccine and its safety. The organisation has this to say:

“Vaccination is the most important means of preventing yellow fever.

“The yellow fever vaccine is safe, affordable and a single dose provides life-long protection against yellow fever disease.”

Source: WHO

For more information on Yellow Card, kindly contact the local health authorities in your country.

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