AMID concerns that yellow fever vaccination requirements for incoming passengers to the country are not being enforced, Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell says that’s not the case.
His comments came yesterday after a Tourism Ministry official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the press that the “majority” of airlines do not enforce Bahamian health laws which require passengers arriving from countries “at risk” to be vaccinated for yellow fever before they enter.
The source also alleges the Immigration Department rarely checks the vaccination records for arriving passengers.
Yesterday, Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell denied the reports. “Anything that’s in the regulations,” he said, “they (immigration officials) are aware of it so if you come from a country where it is required, it will be flagged once you present your passport. That’s the way it should operate.”
He said that if an airline flags that a passenger who comes from a country where the Bahamian regulations require a vaccination, they will stop the passenger from getting on the plane.
And although he could not provide an immediate figure, he said there have been cases where persons have been denied boarding access because of vaccination requirements.
A representative for Copa Airlines, which operates out of Panama – an “at risk” country for yellow fever – confirmed to the press something similar, noting that the airline does “of course” alert passengers of the requirement, but explained that Bahamas Immigration is in charge of enforcing vaccination requirements.
The source also told the press the United States doesn’t enforce a yellow fever vaccination and alleged some passengers are able to avoid the requirement by travelling first to the US and then to The Bahamas.
However, immigration director Jack Thompson said immigration officers are trained to look for “anything of concern.”
“A number of questions are asked at the border,” he said. “And based on the answers the officer would know what to do.”
Comments: If a traveler spends a week in a non YF country (like US in this instance) after flying in from a YF country (like Panama), then no further check is needed in a third country, which he may travel to afterwards.