The Nigerian government will phase out the old version of the yellow card from July 1, the Ministry of Health announced on Friday.
The ministry said in a press statement signed by its director of media, Boade Akinola, that the new e-Yellow card, which was introduced in August 2017, will become the only valid document proof of vaccination against Yellow Fever from that date.
The statement quoted the permanent secretary of the ministry, Abdulaziz Abudullahi, as describing the new card as an electronic version with enhanced security features verifiable anywhere in the world.
This, he explained, can be done by scanning the bar code or checking the card number on the yellow card portal.
“The introduction of the new e- Yellow card, otherwise known as International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP), is to address the issue of fake ‘yellow cards’ which has hitherto constituted a source of national embarrassment.”
Importance of yellow card
The yellow card is a small rectangular booklet given to people who have been vaccinated against Yellow Fever.
Yellow Fever is a communicable disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes. The “yellow” in the name refers to the jaundice that affects some of the patients.
The symptoms of the disease include fever, headache, jaundice, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. The disease is endemic in tropical areas of Africa and Central and South America.
Nigeria is still battling to eradicate the disease as new cases resurfaced in the country in 2017.
Yellow Fever is vaccine preventable. A single dose is sufficient to confer sustainable immunity and a lifelong protection against the disease.
Once an individual is vaccinated, the person is expected to be given the yellow card as evidence of vaccination.
Due to the contagious nature of the disease, the Yellow Card is one of the traveling documents demanded from people coming from or going to countries in which the disease is endemic .
Fake Yellow Cards
Despite the importance of the yellow card, some Nigerians procure ‘fake’ Yellow Cards to complete their travelling papers.
For years, the issuance of yellow cards in Nigeria has been marred by fraud and irregularities.
In 2012, about 125 Nigerians were denied entry into South Africa because the South African Port Health Authority was not satisfied with the authenticity of the travelers’ yellow fever vaccination cards.
In August 2017, the Nigerian government, as part of moves to curtail issuance of fake cards, introduced the electronic version, which is machine-readable.
Despite the effort to control the issuance of fake cards, PREMIUM TIMES had last year reported that some fake yellow cards were been issued in the airport toilets by cleaners and touts.
Also, PREMIUM TIMES had reported that some people were issued the original Yellow card without being vaccinated or having evidence of precious vaccination.
Mr Abdullahi said the new e-card is expected to stop future extortion and issuance of fake Yellow Cards.
He said some countries, including Nigeria, are endemic for yellow fever as such travellers to affected (endemic) countries were at risk of exposure to infection by the yellow fever virus; hence, the mandatory vaccination against the disease.
Mr Abdullahi said according to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendation, all international travellers, nine months and above, visiting Nigeria must be vaccinated against the disease.
He also said that additional measures had been adopted at points of entry for the prevention and control of Yellow Fever, which involves presentation of evidence of vaccination against Yellow Fever on arrival in Nigeria.
He stressed that from July 1, travellers arriving Nigeria without proof of Yellow Fever vaccination would be vaccinated with the yellow fever vaccine at the points of entry and issued the card, after payment.
The permanent secretary enjoined the travelling public to cooperate with the ministry through the Port Health Services Division, in preventing and controlling cross-border transmission of Yellow Fever by complying with points of entry and obtaining their e- Yellow Cards from the Division.
“This makes us all a part of the global coalition/movement to eliminate yellow fever epidemics by 2026,” Mr. Abdullahi said.