Travel vaccination certificates – Why you may need them

What are travel vaccination certificates and why may you need them? Get answers to your questions about the yellow fever, polio and meningitis certificates here.

Vaccination certificates are sometimes required when travelling as proof that you are protected against specific diseases.

The meningitis, polio and yellow fever certificates are some of the most commonly used. Countries can deny you entry without a vaccination certificate, so find out which countries require them.

Here’s what you need to know.

What types of certificates are there?

Vaccination certificates give details of the diseases you have been vaccinated against. They are also known as an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis or ICVP.

Vaccination certificates help to prevent, protect, and control the spread of disease, and support the public health response to the international spread of disease.

You will need vaccination certificates for yellow fever, polio and meningococcal meningitis vaccines.

However, you will not need a vaccination certificate for every vaccination you receive. For example, you would not receive certificates for the typhoid or hepatitis B vaccines.

Yellow fever vaccination certificate

Countries may require a yellow fever vaccination certificate for different reasons.

Just because you need proof of vaccination to enter a country does not mean there is a risk of catching the disease there.

Similarly, if a country does not require a yellow fever certificate, it does not mean that yellow fever is not present.

This may seem a little odd, as you would think needing a certificate to enter a country would mean that yellow fever is present there, but these rules are in place to try and stop the spread of diseases around the world.

For the same reason, you can also be required to show your yellow fever certificate upon entry if you have travelled through other countries or airports, where there is a risk of yellow fever, to reach your final destination.

You can use your yellow fever certificate every time you travel, because the validity of a yellow fever certificate is now lifelong.

Before July 2016, yellow fever certificates were only valid for ten years. However, it does not matter if your certificate was issued before this time, everyone can now use yellow fever vaccination certificates without limit.

Some of the countries that may require you to show a yellow fever certificate include Australia, India, Egypt, China, the Bahamas, Mexico and the Philippines.

Polio vaccination certificate

Check if you need a polio vaccination certificate if you are going for Hajj or Umrah pilgrims, as checks and restrictions are tightened during these events and you may not be allowed entry without one.

As with the yellow fever certificate, there are several reasons why a country may require you to show a polio vaccination certificate before entering.

Some of the destinations that may require you to show a polio vaccination certificate include India, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Egypt, Lithuania and Saudi Arabia if you are entering from a risk country.

It is particularly important that you check if you need a polio vaccination certificate if you plan to attend the Hajj and Umrah pilgrims, as checks and restrictions are tightened during these events.  

This is because, during events like these, there are a lot of people all together in one place. These people travel from all over the world, from countries with different health risks and limited access to vaccines.

This increases your risk of catching various diseases. It is therefore important that you check whether you need any vaccines, so you can protect yourself in the best possible way.

The polio vaccination certificate is only valid for one year if you are travelling to Pakistan and Nigeria, amongst others, and are staying there for more than 28 days. This means that you must get a new certificate regularly if you visit these countries often.

Meningococcal meningitis vaccine certificate

The reasons for needing a meningococcal meningitis vaccine certificate are the same as for other vaccine certificates, however, this certificate is required less frequently and looks different.

The reason why the meningitis vaccine certificate looks different is because details of the meningococcal meningitis vaccine are not routinely recorded on the International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis booklet.

However, if you had an ICVP issued when receiving the yellow fever or polio vaccine, details of your meningococcal meningitis vaccine can be recorded in the ‘other vaccinations’ pages.

If you do not hold an ICVP, proof of vaccination can be recorded by your prescribing nurse on an alternative document and be authenticated with an official stamp.

The meningococcal meningitis vaccine certificate is valid for five years. However, your paperwork must state that a ‘conjugate meningococcal vaccine’ was administered. If this vaccine type is not noted, the certificate will only be valid for three years.

Some of the destinations that may require you to show a meningococcal meningitis vaccine certificate include Bosnia, Gambia, Libya and Saudi Arabia.

As with the polio vaccination certificate, if you are arriving for Umrah, Hajj or for seasonal work in Hajj zones, you may be required to submit a valid meningococcal vaccination certificate. You must show that you have received the meningococcal meningitis vaccine no less than ten days and no more than three years prior to your arrival in Saudi Arabia, as this is the country’s requirement.

What happens if you travel without a certificate?

If you travel without a vaccination certificate, you may be refused entry to the country you want to visit. Therefore, you should check if you need the travel vaccination certificate, so you do not get stuck at a foreign airport.

You may be tempted to try and get away with not having a vaccination certificate. This is a really bad idea.

Some countries can flat out refuse you entry without one. If this happens, you will not have many options other than to book a ticket straight back home.

At the same time, other countries can be a little bit more lenient, but relying on this is a very risky strategy.

If you travel to Australia from a yellow fever risk country, for example, but do not hold a vaccination certificate, you may still be permitted to enter the country, despite it being a requirement. However, you may be the unlucky person who is denied entry, so do not take that chance.

The risk of diseases can change frequently from country to country. When the risk level increases, countries can tighten their entry requirements and this can happen suddenly.

So, do not get caught out. Always carry the required vaccination certificates to ensure you can get to where you want to be.

How do you get the vaccination certificates?

The yellow fever vaccine and vaccination certificates are only available from registered yellow fever vaccination centres.

For other vaccines and certificates, such as meningitis and polio, you can book a free telephone consultation and get your vaccinations and certificates at one of our partner pharmacies near you.

You will be given a certificate when you are vaccinated. You do not need to worry about applying for it or ordering anything, so the process is simple.

In most cases, you will be charged for your vaccine, but the certificate is provided at no additional cost. You may need to pay a charge if you require a replacement though, so make sure you look after it.

What happens if you have lost your vaccination certificate?

You do not want a lost vaccination certificate to be standing in the way between you and the trip of a lifetime.

But if you find yourself faced with that exact problem, there is still hope. If you have lost any of your vaccination certificates and you are from the UK, you may be able to get another one reissued.

You will need details of the vaccination batch number and the date you had the vaccination, so keep this information somewhere safe.

A good tip is to keep a note in your smartphone so that you have the information with you at all times, just in case you lose your vaccination certificate while abroad.

Can you change your name on the travel vaccination certificate?

You will need to get a new vaccination certificate if you change your name, for example after getting married.

You do not want to get caught out as a newly wed when jetting off for your honeymoon, so plan ahead.

If you are planning a name change and know you have a trip coming up soon, make sure you make enquiries about updating your travel vaccinations as soon as possible.

What are the important things to remember about vaccination certificates?

Travel vaccination certificates should not cause you a lot of bother, even if you are a regular traveller.

However, you do need to make sure you have the right information and that you are organised.

You should:

  • check the country requirements well in advance before a trip

  • keep your vaccination certificates in a safe place

  • make photocopies of your certificates just in case

  • make a note of the vaccination batch number and date

  • get your certificate replaced after name changes

Don’t let paperwork get in your way. Remember to do these things and you are all set to go.

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