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I read on cdc.gov:

Countries cannot require proof of revaccination (booster) against [the yellow fever] as a condition of entry, even if the traveler’s last vaccination was >10 years ago.

Is that true? I.e., is that true that countries are not allowed to require proof of revaccination (booster) against the yellow fever as a condition of entry, even if the traveler’s last vaccination was over 10 years ago? I am asking as I don't see which jurisdiction would enforce that (international law? WHO?).

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    Pretty sure countries can set whatever requirements they want and don't have to ask the WHO either.
    – Tiger Guy
    Apr 23 at 6:45
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    @TigerGuy Yes, though International Health Regulations are legally binding on the signatory countries, with all the other caveats in practice associated with this kind of international treaties.
    – xngtng
    Apr 23 at 7:42

1 Answer 1

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It is more of a philosophical question what is meant by "allowed", so I will not go too much into it. I will use "allowed", "limits" and similar words in reference to what the words state and not their practical effects or enforcement.

The International Health Regulations (IHR) is an international treaty that governs the public health measures taken against international spread of diseases. The signatory countries (all UN member states, plus Holy See, Cook Islands and Niue) are not allowed to implement arbitrary public health measures that require invasive medical examination, vaccination or other prophylax (article 31). The same Regulations also provide for the format of the yellow book (International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis).

Article 36 of the IHR provides

  1. Vaccines and prophylaxis for travellers administered pursuant to these Regulations, or to recommendations and certificates relating thereto, shall conform to the provisions of Annex 6 and, when applicable, Annex 7 with regard to specific diseases

  2. A traveller in possession of a certificate of vaccination or other prophylaxis issued in conformity with Annex 6 and, when applicable, Annex 7, shall not be denied entry as a consequence of the disease to which the certificate refers, even if coming from an affected area, unless the competent authority has verifiable indications and/or evidence that the vaccination or other prophylaxis was not effective.

Annex 7 has specific provisions dealing with the yellow fever vaccination, and it has been amended in 2016 to provide for life-time validity of the vaccination.

The IHR is a legally binding instrument, as in, the sovereign signatory countries intend themselves to be bound by it.

As with many international treaties, legally binding instruments do not necessarily provide an enforcement mechanism, and even in the case where a mechanism is provided by the treaty, it is not necessarily effective, particularly when against a powerful country. IHR does not provide an enforcement mechanism. As we have seen very recently during the Covid-19 pandemic, many countries have imposed public health measures that may not be fully reasonable or permitted under IHR, and there is no process to force the countries to justify their measures under the instrument.

I.e., is that true that countries are not allowed to require proof of revaccination (booster) against the yellow fever as a condition of entry, even if the traveler’s last vaccination was over 10 years ago?

It is true that a country would not be in compliance with the IHR if it requires booster dose against the yellow fever as a condition of entry.

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    “As we have seen very recently, many countries have imposed public health measures that may not be fully reasonable or permitted under IHR.” — The wording ‘very recently’ makes me think this isn’t about Covid, which peaked about three to four years ago. Have I missed something after that? Apr 24 at 16:03
  • @JanusBahsJacquet It is about Covid, which to me is still quite recent as far as global pandemic goes, but I will clarify. The vaccination etc. requirements lasted until two years ago. China finally relaxed its draconian border measures barely a year ago. Many of the measures likely can be justitified under the IHR, but almost no country paid attention to the instrument as domestic political priorities carried the most during Covid and there is no court-like authority where the restrictions may be challenged (by individuals or other countries).
    – xngtng
    Apr 24 at 18:08

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