In 1971, when I first travelled overseas, Australians were required to carry an ‘International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP)’, also known as the ‘Carte Jaune’ (yellow card). This was an official vaccination report recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO).

My card was printed by the Government Printing Office in Canberra in 1969. My first vaccinations, on 19 April 1971 were for smallpox, cholera, and typhoid. I received boosters on 3 May 1971. I was not vaccinated against yellow fever.

The Certificate was introduced following the International Sanitary Convention for Aerial Navigation of 1933, meant to protect communities and air crew against diseases spread by air travel. The convention established regulations to prevent the spread of plague, cholera, yellow fever, typhus and smallpox..

The World Health Organisation was formed in 1946 and the Fourth World Health Assembly adopted the International Sanitary Regulations (alias WHO Regulations No. 2) on 25 May 1951, replacing the earlier International Sanitary Conventions. International certificates of vaccination replaced the old International Certificates of Inoculation and Vaccination.

In 1969 the International Health Regulations (IHR) were adopted by the WHO’s World Health Assembly. The 1969 IHR focused on four diseases: cholera, plague, smallpox, and yellow fever. A model International Certificate of Vaccination was introduced. My Certificate was in line with this.

After smallpox was successfully eradicated in 1980, the International Certificate of Vaccination against Smallpox was cancelled in 1981, and the new 1983 form lacked any provision for smallpox vaccination.

Greg’s certificate was issued by the Australian Department of Health and printed in 1984. It includes the statement, “WHO declared on 8 May 1980 that smallpox had been eradicated. Smallpox vaccination is therefore no longer justified. It may even be dangerous.”

I can’t detect my smallpox vaccination scar on my upper left arm anymore. It looked similar to this one, though this scar in the photo is from the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin or BCG vaccine which is used to protect people against human tuberculosis. Photo from Flickr licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

My travels since 1989 have not required my vaccinations to be recorded on a certificate.

I have recently been vaccinated to protect against infection by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. I have a digital immunisation history statement which can be viewed on my mobile phone. My influenza immunisations are shown as well as my Covid-19 immunisation. The immunisation history statement is not a vaccine passport and there is no easing of travel restrictions within Australia as a result of immunisation. In fact there is no international recognition of Covid-19 vaccinations and in April 2021 the World Health Organisation in April 2021 that it does not recommend that countries “require proof of vaccination as a condition of entry, given the limited (although growing) evidence about the performance of vaccines in reducing transmission and the persistent inequity in the global vaccine distribution.”

It seems likely that any update to my Yellow Card to certify that I have met vaccination requirements for international travel in the future will be digital and not paper-based. Digital versions of the Yellow Card have already been developed for Yellow Fever.