by Brent Pinheiro
International Vaccination Cards, aka Yellow Cards (or Carte Jaunes if you're feeling fancy), have existed since the 1940s. They've been used throughout the years to show proof of vaccination against dangerous diseases like cholera, yellow fever, and smallpox. In fact, ICVP cards were used in the fight against, and eventual eradication of smallpox.
In the past few months, we’ve seen several countries announce COVID-19 vaccine requirements for entry. Those heading to Miami Carnival this week though, you on the inside... the US policy requiring adult international travellers to be fully vaccinated comes into effect in early November. With no digital system currently in place, Trinbagonians will need to use a WHO International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP) to be able to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination when travelling internationally. Here’s how to get one in Trinidad.
Step 1. Gather your documents
On an envelope (letter size works best), clearly print your full name, contact number, and email address. In the envelope place the following:
A copy of the biodata page of your passport.
A copy of your local immunisation card. This is the black and white card issued at the vaccination sites or health centres. Provide a copy of both the front page and the inside where the proof of COVID-19 vaccination is.
Your travel itinerary in the form of a valid ticket for upcoming travel. For the moment, cards are only being issued for upcoming travel.
An existing ICV card where applicable. If you don’t have one, one will be provided.
Tip: Check your vaccination card beforehand and ensure that it is stamped, has a batch number next to each covid vaccine dose administered and a signature next to each dose. If any of those are missing, go back to where you got vaccinated and ask for it to be corrected*. The CMOH office will not issue an ICVP if your vaccination is incomplete.
The International Card Dropbox at the St George West CMOH office. Photo by Anisto Alves
Step 2. Drop off your documents
The procedure for dropping off documents varies depending on the CMOH office. For example, St George West has a dropbox outside of the entrance to the building. St George Central’s dropbox is inside the building. An attendant there checks documents before submission. Do not seal the envelope beforehand. Wait till you get to the CMOH office and find out what system is in place.
The process usually takes 3-5 business days, but this can change based on the date of travel. When I dropped mine off, I got it back in three days. In cases of emergency travel, it may be possible to get it processed faster.
TIP: You must visit the CMOH office that serves the area that you reside. Locations and contact numbers are listed on the Ministry of Health website. Offices are open Monday to Friday from 8 am to 4 pm.
Example of a completed and verified vaccination card. Photo by Brent Pinheiro
Step 3. Collect your certificate
Revisit the CMOH office five days later for your documents (or on the date you were given). You will receive either a brand-new ICVP card if you submitted only a local vaccination card, or your existing ICVP card will be verified and updated. I would say call in advance to ensure that the documents are ready, but calls to some CMOH offices went unanswered for hours when I tried calling, so... top up your phone and may the odds be ever in your favour "Hunger Games salute".
TIP: Until a globally accepted digital service is available, this is the main form of vaccination proof you’ll have for international travel. Get a protector for your card to prevent accidental spills or unexpected rains from ruining the document. Plastic protectors are available for as little as $8 in POS. Pick up an extra one for your local immunisation card too... just in case someone gets a little too lit while you’re out in the safe zones.
*I reached out to the Ministry of Health for clarification on what someone should do if their immunisation card is missing information and if the location where they were vaccinated is now closed. The article will be updated once that information is provided.