Fact Check: Do Americans Need WHO COVID-19 Vaccine Card for International Travel?

Data from Google Trends shows the World Health Organization's (WHO) Yellow Card vaccine passport, also known as the International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis, is being searched for online.

The recent search trends might be linked to a popular TikTok video in which a user claimed American citizens would need the card in order to travel internationally due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The video, posted March 17, was liked nearly 600,000 times before it was taken down or made private.

The Claim

In the video, TikTok user Jason Nicewicz said: "You will need a WHO Yellow Vaccination Passport if you plan on traveling internationally once borders open."

Nicewicz said that COVID-19 vaccination cards issued in the U.S. by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to those who have had a shot are not accepted internationally "because they're easily forgeable and they're administered by the CDC, which is an American organization that other countries don't necessarily recognize."

Nicewicz said: "What is recognized by every country in the world are documents administered by the World Health Organization, specifically this yellow vaccination passport. This is what you'll need if you want to travel internationally.

"All you have to do is add the coronavirus information to this, then boom, it's valid in every country in the world."

Nicewicz added that the passports will need to be signed by a doctor in order to be valid.

The Facts

The WHO Yellow Card is not currently required for international travel regarding COVID-19 and the WHO's current position is that countries should not require proof of COVID-19 vaccination as a basis for entry or departure.

The WHO told Newsweek: "The principal reasons are that the efficacy of vaccines in preventing transmission is not yet clear, and the current limited global vaccine supply.

"Our recommendations will evolve as supply expands and as evidence about existing and new COVID-19 vaccines is compiled."

However, some countries, such as Iceland, allow travelers to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination before they enter instead of having to provide a negative test result, which is widely required. A WHO Yellow Card would be a valid pass in this case.

In addition, the European Union has unveiled proposals for a digital vaccine passport that it could introduce in time for the summer tourism season. For the U.S., Dr. Anthony Fauci previously told Newsweek that "everything will be on the table" regarding mandatory vaccination in the country.

The WHO Yellow Card, also known as the Carte Jaune, is not exclusive to COVID-19. The card is required by some countries as proof that travelers are vaccinated against yellow fever. They can also document vaccination against illnesses such as cholera or rubella, according to the Washington Post.

As Nicewicz said in the TikTok video, the document must be signed by a medical practitioner before it becomes valid. A copy scan of the passport available on the WHO website shows that the section inside states: "This certificate must be signed in the hand of the clinician, who shall be a medical practitioner or other authorized health worker, supervising the administration of the vaccine or prophylaxis. The certificate must also bear the official stamp of the administering centre."

The Ruling

Mostly false.

Nicewicz is correct in stating that the WHO's Yellow Card is used as an international vaccine certificate, but at the moment it is only widely used for yellow fever. In Iceland, it is acceptable as proof of a COVID-19 vaccine and will allow travelers entrance with no further checks.

However, there are currently no global laws requiring proof of a COVID-19 vaccine to travel, and many current proposals for vaccine certificates are regional.

In addition, there are concerns that vaccine passports could be discriminatory against people or nations unable to access a vaccine as readily as others. The WHO, which issues the yellow passport, takes such a stance.

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Vaccine in hand
A technician prepares a dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine for a clinical trial on December 15, 2020, in Aurora, Colorado. COVID-19 vaccines are being rolled out across the world, but the WHO does not recommend they be required for international travel. Michael Ciaglo/Getty