Polio shot stamp must for outbound Pak travellers
- Poliovirus is still endemic to Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria
- All travellers from Pakistan will need polio vaccination certificate from June 1
- Pakistan makes it mandatory following WHO recommendation
“Federal and provincial governments are collaborating with WHO, UNICEF and health development partners to mobilise available resources and ensure the availability of vaccine, vaccination certificates and human resources,” an official statement said earlier this month.
On 5 May WHO issued recommendations that Pakistan, Syria, and Cameroon ensure that their residents and long-term visitors intending to travel internationally be issued polio vaccination certificates as travel documents.
WHO’s senior coordinator Elias Durry tells SciDev.Net that the move is aimed at protecting children in other countries from the crippling, paediatric disease.
“All travellers regardless of age will be required to receive oral polio vaccine and get a certificate.”
Elias Durry, WHO
“All travellers regardless of age will be required to receive oral polio vaccine (OPV) and get a certificate.”
Currently, Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan still have endemic polio infection and until these three countries are rid of the wild poliovirus, the goal of global eradication will remain elusive.
According to WHO, Pakistan, Syria and Cameroon have recently allowed the virus to spread to Afghanistan, Iraq and Equatorial Guinea, respectively.
Since 2011, 770 people (mainly young children) in these countries have been paralysed by polio. Nigeria and Pakistan have also exported wild poliovirus to no fewer than 20 other countries, affecting a further 470 people.
Health officials in Pakistan blame the situation on Taliban militants who have ordered a ban on vaccination on the grounds that they were part of a Western ploy to sterilise Muslims.
“Taliban’s ban on vaccination has crippled at least 100 children in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in last one year. Of the 58 cases recorded in the country this year 45 are from FATA,” Altaf Bosan, head of the Prime Minister’s Polio Cell, tells SciDev.Net.
WHO's recommendations are directed at countries from which there is a risk of international spread of the wild poliovirus.
Neighbouring India, which was certified polio free in March by WHO, has taken its own steps to prevent re-introduction of polio through international travel by requiring visitors from polio-infected countries to produce proof of vaccination while applying for visas.
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's South Asia desk.