International travel and health

World – Polio vaccination for Travellers

12 June 2014- The WHO Director-General recently determined that the international spread of wild type poliovirus constitutes a public health emergency of international concern under the International Health Regulations (IHR). As part of this process, the Director-General has issued specific IHR 'Temporary Recommendations' to all infected countries concerning polio vaccination of international travellers from these countries in order to reduce the international spread of wild poliovirus (see: http://www.polioeradication.org/Infectedcountries/PolioEmergency.aspx)

These Temporary Recommendations are expected to be implemented by all affected countries noted below; other countries may require proof of vaccination for some travellers from these countries.

In accordance with these Temporary Recommendations:

  • Residents or long term visitors (after stays of more than 4 weeks) from countries exporting wild poliovirus (Cameroon, Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Syrian Arab Republic) should receive a documented polio vaccine booster dose (OPV or IPV) before leaving the country. That dose should have been received between 4 weeks and 12 months before departure.
  • Countries which are infected with wild poliovirus but not currently exporting the virus (Afghanistan, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Israel, Nigeria and Somalia) should encourage residents and long-term visitors (after stays of more than 4 weeks) to receive a documented polio vaccine dose (OPV or IPV) between 4 weeks and 12 months before leaving the country.
  • In case of unavoidable last minute travel to or from infected countries (where the polio virus is still circulating), travellers should still receive one dose of OPV or IPV prior to departure, if they have not received a documented dose of polio vaccine within the previous 12 months.

WHO also continues to advise travellers to countries where the polio virus is still circulating to ensure that they have completed the age-appropriate polio vaccine series, according to their respective national immunization schedule. Adult travellers to polio infected countries who have previously received three or more doses of OPV or IPV should also be given another one-time booster dose of polio vaccine.

For persons who previously received only IPV, OPV should be the choice for the booster dose, if available and feasible.

Travellers should be provided with a WHO IHR International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis http://www.who.int/ihr/ports_airports/icvp/en/ to record their polio vaccination and serve as proof of vaccination.

The list of countries where the polio virus is still circulating (i.e. infected countries) is updated at http://www.polioeradication.org/Infectedcountries/PolioEmergency.aspx)

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