The Federal Government said on Monday that the recent deportation of 125 Nigerian travellers by South African authorities contravened the International Health Regulations (IHR) 2005.
The Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu, stated this at a news conference on the International Certificate for Vaccination against Yellow Fever in Abuja.
Mr. Chukwu described the South Africa action as an embarrassment to Nigeria.
It will be recalled that some 125 Nigerian travellers were on Friday deported from South Africa for allegedly being in possession of fake yellow fever certificates.
According to the minister, no country has so far written a formal report on fake yellow fever card to the Nigerian government.
Mr. Chukwu said it was curious that a country that had issued entry visas to intending travelers on the presentation of a valid Yellow Card would then turn around to deport same travelers.
“So far, no country, no individual, has made any report to the Ministry on the possession of fake Yellow Card by any one. If there are such cases, the Ministry would like to have reports for necessary investigation.
“It is obviously very curious that a country that had issued entry visas to intending travelers which issuance was in the first instance predicated on the presentation of a valid Yellow Card, will then turn around at the point of entry to deport those travelers.
“If those travelers had fake Yellow Cards, the question will then be how come they possessed valid visas.
“To the best of our knowledge, there is absolutely no reason for these travelers to have been deported and in so doing to have been embarrassed and humiliated.
“The action of South African immigration to the Nigerian travelers is certainly against the International Health Regulations (IHR) issued by World Health Organisation 2005 Section 32.
“I also want to appeal to other countries not to politicise health.’’
Mr. Chukwu stressed that Nigeria had no yellow fever prevalence and as such its citizens should not have been subjected to such an action from the South African government.
The minister said that the last confirmed cases of yellow fever in Nigeria was in 1995 when 25 cases and one death were recorded.
“Countries at risk of yellow fever may be required to have their citizens travelling out to take the yellow fever vaccination and therefore have a Yellow Card in accordance with IHR 2005.
“The list of other diseases for which vaccination is required will depend on individual countries in line with the IHR 2005.
“The International Certificate of Vaccination or prophylaxis commonly known as Yellow Card has three diseases (Cholera, Yellow Fever and Smallpox: IHR 1969).
“After the revision of IHR 2005, the card now covers diseases and other public health events that are immunisable in accordance with the revised IHR 2005.
“With the revised IHR 2005 guidelines, only yellow fever required vaccination. Cholera vaccination stopped in 1973 while the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared on May 8, 1980 that smallpox had been eradicated.’’
The minister added that the international certificate of vaccination or re-vaccination against Yellow Fever was valid only if the vaccine used has been approved by WHO.
“The validity of the Yellow Card extends for a period of 10 years beginning 10 days after the date of vaccination or in the event of a revaccination, 10 years from the date of the revaccination.
“Some countries like South Africa, Zimbabwe, India and Saudi Arabia require that Nigerians coming into their country produce evidence of vaccination against Yellow Fever.
“On our part, Nigeria requires travelers coming into the country from Yellow Fever at-risk countries to produce evidence of vaccination against Yellow Fever in accordance with the IHR 2005.’’
He therefore, advised Nigerians seeking to travel outside Nigeria to do the right thing by receiving the necessary vaccinations and report to the Federal Ministry of Health where the authenticity of the Yellow Cards given to them can be verified.