Sorry, But Vaccine Passports Already Exist

Sorry, But Vaccine Passports Already Exist

April 8, 2021 · 7 min. readThis article may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

It is a race against time to vaccinate the world against COVID-19, especially as case numbers rise and many countries are forced into their third or fourth lockdown. The new virus variants are expected and are a reasonable cause for concern. Some vaccines can slow the spread of it, but others are not as effective. However, this shouldn't be surprising, as even a 100% effective influenza vaccine is impossible to make, and we've been working on that since 1933.

For the sake of this article, however, we aren't talking about the COVID-19 vaccine or the possible "vaccine passports" that might soon be a reality. Instead, we are talking about current vaccine requirements that restrict international travel.

COVID-19 sign in airport

There aren't a lot of vaccine travel requirements, or "vaccine passports", in North America, Europe, or Antarctica (which kind of goes without saying, but I know somebody would ask), but in developing countries, it is very common. It is recommended to get vaccinated for illnesses like Hepatitis A and B, measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, varicella (chickenpox), influenza, rabies, and others, but it is not required. Some countries have additional recommended vaccines too, like Japanese encephalitis, but these are only recommended and are also not required.

Park in Osaka

(For example, I didn't get a vaccine for Japanese encephalitis when I went to Japan in 2014 because it was too expensive.)

However, the biggest example of an existing vaccine passport is that of the Yellow Fever vaccine. Many countries restrict travel from visitors who do not have this vaccine. Although Yellow Fever is not prominent across the globe, the countries that are prone to it include:

  • Angola (Africa)
  • Argentina (South America)
  • Benin (Africa)
  • Bolivia (South America)
  • Brazil (South America)
  • Burkina Faso (Africa)
  • Burundi (Africa)
  • Cameroon (Africa)
  • Central African Republic (Africa)
  • Chad (Africa)
  • Colombia (South America)
  • Cote d'Ivoire (Africa)
  • Democratic Republic of Congo (Africa)
  • Ecuador (Africa)
  • Equatorial Guinea (Africa)
  • Ethiopia (Africa)
  • French Guiana (South America)
  • Gabon (Africa)
  • Gambia (Africa)
  • Ghana (Africa)
  • Guinea (Africa)
  • Guinea-Bissau (Africa)
  • Guyana (South America)
  • Kenya (Africa)
  • Liberia (Africa)
  • Mali (Africa)
  • Mauritania (Africa)
  • Niger (Africa)
  • Nigeria (Africa)
  • Panama (South America)
  • Paraguay (South America)
  • Peru (South America)
  • Senegal (Africa)
  • Sierra Leone (Africa)
  • South Sudan (Africa)
  • Sudan (Africa)
  • Suriname (South America)
  • Togo (Africa)
  • Trinidad and Tobago (South America)
  • Uganda (Africa)
  • Venezuela (South America)

(This list is ever-changing. Please refer to the WHO list for up-to-date countries.)

Many countries require visitors from most, if not all, of these countries to be vaccinated. These countries make up 1.2 billion people – and generally, anybody over the age of nine months who wants to travel needs a vaccine if they plan to leave the country.

Plaza in Puebla

The vaccination prevention of Yellow Fever is so large that even before the COVID-19 pandemic started, there was a global shortage of Yellow Fever vaccines – including a shortage in Canada. This can cause problems for Canadians, even if they are not from a Yellow Fever-prone country. For example, if you are from Canada and you're travelling to Venezuela and you have more than a 12-hour layover in Brazil, you will be denied access without being vaccinated.

But Yellow Fever is not the only virus countries require proof of vaccination from. Proof of a polio vaccine is also required to enter the following countries:

  • Afghanistan (Asia)
  • Angola (Africa)
  • Benin (Africa)
  • Cameroon (Africa)
  • Central African Republic (Africa)
  • Chad (Africa)
  • China (Asia)
  • Côte d'Ivoire (Africa)
  • Democratic Republic of Congo (Africa)
  • Ethiopia (Africa)
  • Ghana (Africa)
  • Indonesia (Asia)
  • Malaysia (Asia)
  • Mozambique (Africa)
  • Myanmar (Asia)
  • Niger (Africa)
  • Nigeria (Africa)
  • Pakistan (Asia)
  • Papua New Guinea (Oceania)
  • Philippines (Asia)
  • Somalia (Africa)
  • Togo (Africa)
  • Zambia (Africa)

If proof of vaccination is not present at entry of these countries, access will be denied. Thankfully, though, most Canadians born after 1957 have been vaccinated for polio.

(But still, double-check if you need that booster shot.)

Similarly, vaccination of measles is required to enter the countries of:

  • American Samoa (Oceania)
  • Marshall Islands (Oceania)
  • Solomon Islands (Oceania)
  • Tokelau (Oceania)

Lastly, while Meningococcal disease, which has a 5% - 10% fatality rate, is just a recommended vaccine throughout the sub-Saharan African meningitis belt, it is required in Saudi Arabia during Umrah, Hajj or for seasonal work in Hajj zones.

In many ways, not requiring a "vaccine passport" is a luxury in North America, Europe, and Antarctica. In every other continent – South America, Asia, Oceania and Africa – proof of vaccination is required one way or another. Choosing not to get vaccinated puts other people, and other populations, at risk, and it is up to international governments to determine if they want that kind of person in their country.

Park in Munich

Vaccine passports already exist, and their rules are heavily enforced. If the same thing will happen with the COVID-19 vaccine is yet to be seen, but it isn't out of the question either. If they ever make a vaccine for the Zika virus, it will most likely be on the list too, so there is no reason to assume COVID-19 should be exempt.

As always, be sure to check the official Government of Canada website for official travel advisories.

Have you ever had to get a vaccine before visiting another country? How do you feel about mandatory travel vaccines? Let me know in the comments below.

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For the sake of this article, however, we aren't talking about the COVID-19 vaccine or the possible "vaccine passports" that might soon be a reality. Instead, we are talking about current vaccine requirements that restrict international travel.

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