Navigating Mexico: How to Get Your Vaccine Certificate…or Not

Photo: Secretariat de Salud Pública


PUERTO VALLARTA, Jalisco — As had been previously announced, staring in early November, all persons heading into the United States will be required to present proof of full vaccination against covid-19 by a World Health Organization (WHO)-authorized vaccine.

Now that there is a need for a vaccine certificate, some in Mexico are scrambling to find their official proof of vaccination on the government’s online system.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized the three covid-19 vaccines for emergency use during the pandemic: Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer-BioNTech, with Pfizer having recently received the FDA’s full stamp of approval.

The WHO, on the other hand, has granted approval for those three vaccines, as well as the Oxford-AstraZeneca, Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines.

U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) Spokesperson Caitlin Shockey informed airlines that vaccines “which are FDA authorized/approved or listed for emergency use by WHO will meet the criteria for travel to the U.S.” The requirement of a negative COVID test within 72 hours of arrival remains in place. The proof of vaccination is required for all non-citizens or residents.

In some Mexican cities with high number of foreigners, such as a Puerto Vallarta, in an effort to get the entire population vaccinated, officials may have encouraged those without a Unique National Identification (CURP) number, to make it up their own number, since the composition is based on personal data that they already have.

The CURP is one of the most common IDs in Mexico, used for both citizens, as well as temporary and permanent residents. It is similar in use to the U.S. Social Security Number, but unlike the SSN, it is algorithmically generated using the person’s full legal name and personal information.

The CURP is an 18-character alphanumeric code and structured as follows:

  • Four letters from the person’s legal name: the first letter of the paternal surname, the first internal vowel of the paternal surname, the first letter of the maternal surname, and the first letter of the given name;
  • Six numbers that are the person’s date of birth in YYMMDD format;
  • One letter describing the person’s gender: “H” for male (hombre) and “M” for female (mujer)
  • Two letters that are the two-letter state abbreviation for the state where the person was born; if the person was born outside of Mexico, the abbreviation “NE” will be used for Nacido en el Extranjero (born abroad);
  • Three letters from the person’s legal name: the first internal consonant of the paternal surname, the first internal consonant of the maternal surname, and the first internal consonant of the given name;
  • One character to avoid duplicate CURPs among people who have similar names, places of birth and dates of birth; the character is a number that ranges from zero to nine for people born before 2000 and a letter from A to Z for people born since 2000;
  • And, finally, one character that is a checksum, a sort of wildcard generated by the system.

So technically, with the exception of the last character, a person could accurately put together his or her own CURP.

The problem with doing this is the fact that the CURP is issued by the National Population Registration (Renapo) branch of Mexico’s Secretariat of the Interior.

Consequently, if a foreigner invented a CURP number, the record processed after the physical shot was administered will not have anything to associate itself within the official national ID data base. The same holds true for citizens who may have written their CURP incorrectly upon registering the first time.

In both of these cases, it will be impossible to produce a vaccination certificate from the government registry system.

Additionally, a certificate cannot be forged as it has a QR code issued by the Renapo.

To obtain an authentic certificate of vaccination, if you used a valid CURP, go to the Mexican Public Health Secretariat webpage.

So whether the QR code is accessed from a screen on a tablet or phone, or from a printed paper copy of the certificate, the airline employee or government official can see if the printed information on the certificate matches the information in the QR code.

In other words, those who in the past just photo-shopped such documents, the forgery will be immediately apparent.

And by the way, the punishment in Mexico for forging a federal document is six months to five years in prison.

Many foreigners living in Mexico are concerned because they cannot access their certificate for international travel.

While Mexico’s leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena) government has claimed all along it will never require the population to use proof of vaccination for daily life, it could easily become a requirement in private establishments, like restaurants or movie theaters, in an effort to make patrons feel more secure.

It will be interesting to see which Mexican employers will require proof of immunization for their employees.

There have also been reports that some public health care facilities are requiring official proof of vaccination for certain services. 

Meanwhile, recent reports of those trying to correct incorrect info or ascertain why their certificates are not in the system are getting the runaround about which government office is actually responsible for fixing inaccuracies.

No doubt, this is an issue that will continue to fester.

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