What to know about the World Health Organization vaccine booklet

Apr 2, 2021

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By now, you’re probably familiar with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) card Americans receive after being vaccinated against COVID-19. 

This card includes medical information such as the type of vaccine you received, the date you received it and where you were vaccinated.

We’re not yet close to a standardized digital vaccine passport, so this small card is one of the most valuable assets you can have right now — especially as travel restarts.

But if you’re a frequent international traveler, you might also have another vaccination record, this time from the World Health Organization (WHO). Here’s what you need to know about this certificate of vaccination — also called a vaccine booklet.

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What is the vaccine booklet?

(Photo by nodrama_llama/Shutterstock)

The WHO has its own vaccine booklet called the Model International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis. This is separate from the CDC COVID-19 vaccine card and was developed by the WHO.

This booklet contains information such as vaccine or prophylaxis types, the date it was received and the signature of the person who administered it. It also contains a section for booster shots, other vaccines and information about diseases such as malaria. 

Will a vaccine booklet be required to travel?

The WHO told TPG it doesn’t support requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for international travel, but said its recommendations will evolve “as supply expands and as evidence about existing and new COVID-19 vaccines is compiled.”

WHO released interim guidance for developing a certificate, which is open for public comment until April 12, 2021. 

For now, the WHO says it doesn’t support requiring proof of vaccination to travel because it’s still unclear how much the vaccines can prevent transmission and because the global vaccine supply is still limited. While countries like Israel and the United States have vaccinated millions of citizens, much of the developing world still faces delays.

“Every person who is vaccinated should have access to … proof of vaccination, paper-based or digital,” said the WHO. “Under the Smart Vaccine Certificates initiative, WHO is working to develop technical specifications and standards for the use of digital vaccine certificates.”

That means you’ll likely be able to import your existing information from your WHO booklet into vaccine passports in development. If you’re already traveling, you might want to bring both your WHO booklet (if you have one) and your CDC COVID-19 vaccine card.

Where can you get a WHO card?

WHO booklets are available online, and some savvy travelers appear to be buying them en masse. But if you frequently travel abroad and need to be vaccinated against certain diseases, such as yellow fever, you’re likely to get one of these at your next appointment at your local travel clinic.

Some travelers have brought their WHO booklets to their COVID-19 vaccine appointments and had the information added to both the booklet and the CDC vaccine card.

Bottom line

Cards, booklets — it’s a lot to keep track of. You won’t be barred from travel if you don’t have proof of your COVID-19 vaccine in your WHO booklet, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have proof in several locations — especially since the WHO vaccine booklet may be more familiar to authorities abroad than the CDC’s COVID-19 vaccine card. 

Featured image by Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock

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