Stand up for the facts!

Misinformation isn't going away just because it's a new year. Support trusted, factual information with a tax deductible contribution to PolitiFact.

More Info

I would like to contribute

Travelers walk through the Salt Lake City International Airport on March 17, 2021, in Salt Lake City. (AP) Travelers walk through the Salt Lake City International Airport on March 17, 2021, in Salt Lake City. (AP)

Travelers walk through the Salt Lake City International Airport on March 17, 2021, in Salt Lake City. (AP)

Daniel Funke
By Daniel Funke March 22, 2021

No, you don’t need a WHO vaccination certificate to travel internationally

If Your Time is short

  • While some countries have started to use vaccination certificates, they are not required everywhere. 

  • The World Health Organization has advised countries not to require COVID-19 vaccination for travel.

  • Anyone can download and use the WHO vaccination record pictured in the TikTok video. International health regulations for travelers require inoculations only against yellow fever.

A popular TikTok video said that if you want to travel abroad after getting the COVID-19 vaccine, you’ll need a passport. But not just any passport.

"You will need a WHO Yellow Vaccination Passport if you plan on traveling internationally once borders open," says the caption on a March 17 post.

The video, which had more than 80,000 shares before it was removed, featured a TikTok user who said he works at "an international airline." He said cards issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to Americans who receive the coronavirus vaccine aren’t sufficient to gain entry into other countries.

"They’re not cutting it, because they’re easily forgeable and they’re administered by the CDC, which is an American organization that other countries don’t necessarily recognize," the user said in the video. "What is recognized by every country in the world are documents that are administered by the World Health Organization."

Nearly a quarter of Americans have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, and President Joe Biden has said that at the current pace, the country could return to some degree of normalcy by July 4. So we wanted to take a closer look at the TikTok post’s claim about proof of vaccination for travelers.

(Screenshot from TikTok)

The video is wrong — COVID-19 vaccination is not required to travel abroad. While some countries have started to check for proof of vaccination for travelers to avoid quarantine and testing requirements, the documents are not required as a condition of travel, and the WHO has advocated against requiring vaccination before travel.

In the video, the TikTok user held up a yellow document. He said the WHO sells the vaccination passport on its website, and that "you will need a doctor to sign and stamp this in order to make it valid" 

The yellow document is the WHO’s International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis, which was created following the passage of the International Health Regulations in 2005. The passport-size vaccination record includes pages that "must be signed in the hand of the clinician … supervising the administration of the vaccine or prophylaxis." You can download and print one free online.

The document is not directly related to COVID-19.

Featured Fact-check

"Under the current legal provisions in the International Health Regulations (2005), yellow fever is the only disease for which proof of vaccination is a prerequisite for entry," a WHO spokesperson told PolitiFact.

In February, the WHO published a position paper that said countries should not begin requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for departure or entry, "given that there are still critical unknowns regarding the efficacy of vaccination in reducing transmission."

"In addition, considering that there is limited availability of vaccines, preferential vaccination of travelers could result in inadequate supplies of vaccines for priority populations considered at high risk of severe COVID-19 disease," the WHO wrote.

That recommendation is nonbinding, though, and some countries have started to implement their own COVID-19 vaccination policies for travel. Iceland, for example, has started allowing entry to passengers with proof of vaccination such as a WHO certificate. Without it, travelers would have to test negative for COVID-19. 

Several other countries have similar policies. Sweden and Denmark are working on creating their own digital vaccination certificates, and Israel has issued its "green pass" to vaccinated citizens who want to access public amenities. (Consult the State Department’s website for a full list of country-level COVID-19 travel restrictions.)

When asked in January if the U.S. could implement a COVID-19 vaccine passport system, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Newsweek: "Anything is on the table. Anything is possible, of course."

Our ruling

A TikTok post said: "You will need a WHO Yellow Vaccination Passport if you plan on traveling internationally once borders open."

That’s not literally true. 

International health regulations for travelers require inoculations only against yellow fever. The WHO has advised countries not to require COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of travel. However, some countries have started to check for proof of vaccination to avoid quarantine and testing requirements — and the WHO’s vaccination record can be used in some circumstances.

The post contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.

RELATED: Can vaccination and infection rates add up to reach COVID-19 herd immunity?

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Daniel Funke

No, you don’t need a WHO vaccination certificate to travel internationally

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up