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I will be traveling from Ecuador to the United States with a short airport-only stopover in Panama (not passing immigration). I will not be in any areas with a risk of yellow fever transmission, and therefore do not need the vaccine for medical reasons, but I understand Panama has certain requirements for proof of vaccination if you're coming from a country where the disease is present. Where do I find an official description of Panama's requirements from a government source?

There are many third-party websites and forums that contain information, but I haven't seen anything official from the government.

The CDC seems to say proof of vaccination is required, since Ecuador is a YF risk country: "Required if traveling from a country with risk of YF virus transmission and ≥1 year of age, including transit >12 hours in an airport located in a country with risk of YF virus transmission."

However, Timatic's health database seems to say the requirement applies only to travelers from Brazil: "Vaccination against yellow fever required if arriving from Brazil."

And Panama's embassy contradicts both of those sources, saying "You do not need a yellow fever vaccine to travel to Panama."

In addition, if I possess an official certification on my Yellow Card that the vaccine is contraindicated since I'm not at risk of exposure (signed and stamped by the appropriate public health authorities in the US), is that sufficient?

I have seen the experience in Traveling to Ecuador with a layover in Panama. Do I need Yellow Fever vaccine?, and clearly the Embassy is an official agency, but I'd like an additional official Panamanian government source if one exists (Spanish language is fine), while that question focuses on Ecuador (I am not transiting Panama on my way to Ecuador).

  • Did you put in Panama as your transit country? It does say YELLOW FEVER VACCINATION NOT REQUIRED. – Michael Hampton Oct 31 '19 at 1:47
  • @MichaelHampton When I do it, I get "Vaccination against yellow fever required if arriving from Brazil" and an exemption for "Passengers transiting Panama if not leaving the transit area," so I'd seem to be exempt according to Timatic. But the CDC conflicts with that and says a vaccination is requirement coming from any YF country. And Panama's embassy in the US says "You do not need a yellow fever vaccine to travel to Panama." So every source, even Timatic, is wildly contradictory. I'll write the airline to confirm. – Zach Lipton Oct 31 '19 at 2:06
  • What on earth did you put into Timatic to get that result? – Michael Hampton Oct 31 '19 at 2:08
  • @MichaelHampton Oh. It looks like Timatic says "YELLOW FEVER VACCINATION NOT REQUIRED" if you fill in the "Visited Last 6 days" field, but says the Brazil thing and the exceptions (age, transit, etc..) if you leave that field blank. At this point, I guess I'm pretty satisfied a vaccination isn't required (and I just paid the fee for an exemption certificate at the health department anyway) and the CDC is wrong I guess, but my travel companion will have to decide whether they're comfortable without the certificate. – Zach Lipton Oct 31 '19 at 2:27
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    Asked to my sister (she and her family went to Panama, from Ecuador, last January) and they were never asked for the vaccine certificate (the travel agency told her she HAD to have it, though). – JuanCa Oct 31 '19 at 15:49
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According to the CDC and many other websites specialized in this (like charter companies, vaccination clinics) one is only required have a vaccination against Yellow Fever if:

Traveling from a country with risk of YF virus transmission and ≥1 year of age, including transit >12 hours in an airport located in a country with risk of YF virus transmission.

This includes some countries in Africa and South America.

This is also confirmed by Panama 2019 qouting the Health Ministry of Panama.

I tried searching on Google for Yellow Fever Vaccine site:pa but I didn't find too much about it. .pa is the TLD of Panama.

  • Thanks! This is where the weird contradictory information comes from. The CDC says it's required from any country with risk of YF transmission, while that Panama 2019 site says just "Yellow Fever – African Continent and Brazil" (there are a number of Central and South American countries besides Brazil that have YF), and Timatic only talks about Brazil. Everyone seems to describe the rule differently. – Zach Lipton Oct 30 '19 at 22:32
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There is no specific Panamanian authority link with the entry requirement of a YF vaccine that I have been able to find, but here are some related links from Panamanian organizations/organizations whom Panama is part of that may be of help. They are in Spanish.

The OPS (Pan-American Health Organization - PAHO) site states that you must have vaccinated against Yellow Fever 10 days before travelling to a site determined to be at risk. Panama is a member country of this international organization, a branch of the UN.

The list of countries at risk in the Americas is as follows:

  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • French Guiana
  • Suriname
  • Perú

Since YF is a lifetime vaccine recognized by MINSA (Panamanian Health Ministry), once you have vaccinated, you can carry your vaccine card as proof if questioned, since you are coming from a country in the list.

The Tourism Authority of Panama has some entry requirements as a tourist, but no health related requirements. It should be less restrictive if only as a layover. This also reflects what is mentioned in your embassy of Panama link.

So in your case, you might not need to confirm your vaccine as a hard requirement, but it is probably assumed that if you are coming from Ecuador, a country in the OPS list, you already have been vaccinated against it. The WHO recommends the vaccine for entry, but according to the sources from the government sites it is not an enforced requirement by the Panamanian government.

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