My friend, who was a frequent global traveler before the pandemic, has a document called the International Certificate of Vaccination. It attests that she has been vaccinated against yellow fever and several other diseases.
The form is approved by the World Health Organization and the US Department of Health and Human Services. It was issued by a medical clinic that specializes in pre-travel vaccination.
The yellow fever vaccination is required for travel to quite a few countries in Africa and South America.
Documents like this, recognized by international agreements, have been around for a long time. Some countries require you to produce proof of vaccination before they will let you in. Exactly what’s required depends on where you are going and where you have been.
The US State Department and other sources recommend that before you travel internationally, you should check to see which vaccinations are required or recommended for the countries you are planning to visit, because different diseases are prevalent in different countries.
They recommend vaccination against several gruesome-sounding diseases that we rarely hear about in the US. They also advise travelers to consider a new dose of childhood vaccines to reestablish your immunity because diseases that are extinct here (polio, for example) still exist in some less developed countries.
While most vaccinations are recommended, rather than required, the federal government can impose a requirement based on its assessment of where in the world disease outbreaks are occurring. Other countries have the same authority. You get the required vaccination and you show the documentation or you don’t get on the plane.
I have recently heard the term “vaccine passport,” as if that is some ominous threat hanging over us. In reality, we’ve had them for years.
As parents know, vaccinations are required for almost every student in public, private or charter school unless they have an exemption allowed by law. New Mexico law allows exemptions only for medical and religious reasons, not personal preference. We assume that because only a few students will be exempt, the vast majority of our kids are safe from the spread of those diseases.
The New Mexico Department of Health lists 9 different vaccinations required for students and recommends a few others. Students’ records are in a data base called the New Mexico State Immunization Information System or NMSIIS.
Without satisfactory evidence of the required immunizations, schools are instructed to “start disenrollment proceedings,” which looks like bureaucratic language for kicking the child out of school. Another form of vaccine passport – or, if you like, vaccine verification.
Parents who have chosen not to let their children have these immunizations may have to accept significant limitations like having to home-school those children.
Covid-19 vaccinations are not yet required for school-age children, and they are still not approved for children under 12. But I have been told by friends with school-age children that eligible but unvaccinated children might not be allowed to visit their friends – a decision by parents, not the schools.
With the delta variant of Covid spreading, all kinds of places from concerts to cruise lines are demanding proof of vaccination. I think we can anticipate many more places requiring this. Some people may choose to make a political point by blowing this out of proportion and claiming it is an outrageous invasion of their privacy. I hope they don’t.
Like millions of Americans, I am tired of living with the limitations imposed by this virus. Even more, I am heartsick that every new development related to the virus has been turned into a political wedge issue that further divides our nation and makes it ever more difficult for Americans to solve our problems together.
I’m guessing it’s likely the vaccine passport will be coming. Please, when it arrives, just put it in your wallet and let it be.
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