Nigerians travelling abroad need not risk their trips with fake yellow fever vaccination cards at airports as genuine vaccination cards, also known as International Certificate of Vaccination, used to certify vaccinations against yellow fever, cholera and small pox which some countries require before permitting entry to their shores, can easily be obtained at the Public Health Department at Area 3 in Abuja.
It is not clear if other health units issue it, but a visit to the Department at Block C, Flat 8, Orlu Close, Area 3 Abuja yesterday by Daily Trust showed that instead of the hurriedly obtained fake cards which go for between N2000 and N4000 at some airports, the cards are given by certified medical officers after actual vaccination against the named diseases for just N350 and the process is concluded within a very short time. An officer at the department who asked not to be named said it takes less than an hour to complete the process and wondered why some Nigerians prefer to go for the fake cards.
She added that since the fake cards sparked a diplomatic row between Nigeria and South Africa in March last year, more awareness has been drawn to the relevance of obtaining the genuine ones. "It is even in your own interest to get actually vaccinated before getting the card.
You know certain things should not be taken for granted, you may as well be saving yourself some embarrassment and getting protection against diseases, it doesn't take anything, what is more, it's just for only N350 and you get vaccinated and issued the certificate in a very short time. But you know, some of us usually like cutting corners, only to get hooked up somewhere", she said.
The genuine card is almost the same thing with the fake one, the major difference being that in the case of the fake one, no vaccination is actually given, without proper documentation of the card holder in any health office as it is sold easily in some airports.
Some health officials say the fake cards still bear 1969 as the year of inception of issuance with stamps of fake hospitals and fake vaccine batch numbers while the new original ones bear 2005.
South African authorities on March 2, 2012, stopped 125 Nigerians on an Arik Air aircraft to Johannesburg and deported them to Lagos over genuineness of the yellow fever cards, causing a retaliatory action and subsequent diplomatic spat between the two countries until South Africa later apologised.
But the passengers had their schedules disrupted. Some Nigerian travellers to Accra told newsmen in July last year that they were disgraced at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra over yellow fever vaccination. Yellow fever is common in West Africa.
According to the WHO, Nigeria is one of the countries at risk of the disease. It is a viral haemorrhagic fever which can kill within a short period. Symptoms include vomiting of blood, nausea, jaundice (yellowness of the skin and membranes) congestion of the face and haemorrhage.