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Travel health information for people travelling abroad from the UK

Questions on the Temporary Poliomyelitis Requirements for Polio Affected Countries

17 Oct 2017

Update for travellers on the temporary polio requirements for travel to Pakistan and other polio affected countries.

  • Why are the recommendations in place and who made this decision?
  • Does it apply to me, and should I receive an annual or 10 yearly booster?
  • Do I need to carry an official WHO International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP) or will a note documenting when I last had vaccine suffice?
  • Should I keep getting boosted every year simply for the purpose of getting a certificate?
  • What if I cannot obtain a polio-containing vaccine for my travel?

Why are the recommendation in place and who made this decision?

In April 2014 a World Health Organization (WHO) Emergency Committee met to discuss the spread of polio viruses internationally and agreed that an emergency response was required. A Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) was declared and a number of temporary measures to be implemented were introduced.

The PHIEC remains in place, with the WHO reviewing the temporary recommendations  every 3 months, further details can be accessed via this link: Global Polio Eradication Initiative                        

Does it apply to me, and should I receive an annual or 10 yearly booster?

WHO recommend that individuals who depart countries considered at potential risk of international spread of polio, receive and show proof of having received a polio vaccine within the past 12 months. WHO state that this applies to all citizens and any visitors who spend over 4 weeks in the country.

Taking this into consideration, fitfortravel advises:

  • All individuals travelling to any of the polio-affected countries should ensure they are up-to-date with the UK schedule vaccines and receive a booster dose of  a polio vaccine if it has been more than 10 years since their last dose.
  • In addition, individuals travelling to a country categorised as infected with wild polio virus for over 4 weeks should consider receiving a pre-travel dose of polio vaccine, and proof of vaccination,  if they have not had one in the previous 12 months. Proof of vaccination may be requested in the country being visited at the airport on  departure.

Polio vaccination recommendations can be found on individual fitfortravel country pages.

Do I need to carry an official WHO International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP) or will a note documenting when I last had vaccine suffice?

Travellers to a country infected with wild polio virus are advised to have their polio vaccination documented on the ICVP. For other travellers, it should be sufficient to have this recorded in an appropriate document, for example a stamped vaccination booklet or headed notepaper from the clinic.

Should I keep getting boosted every year simply for the purpose of getting a certificate?

UK travellers who have completed the UK national vaccine schedule and had a booster dose of vaccine in the last 10 years have no risk of acquiring polio when they travel.

Receiving additional doses of polio vaccines will not cause harm. If you decide to travel again without receiving further doses, you should continue to carry proof of previous vaccination. This will help if you are stopped and questioned on exit. If you do not receive a booster in advance of travel, you may receive a dose in the country being visited prior to returning home. This will most likely be with live oral polio vaccine.

What if I cannot obtain a polio-containing vaccine for my travel?

From time to time there may be vaccine shortages across the UK. If you are unable to obtain a booster in advance of travel you can receive a dose in the country being visited prior to returning home. Since this will most likely be with live oral polio vaccine, you should seek further advice if you are worried about receiving a live vaccine (eg. immune-suppressed or pregnant).

You can access the WHO FAQ's for travellers here

There is uncertainty as to what extent the exit recommendations are being enforced as part of departures procedures in the various affected countries and whether travellers are being stopped on exit because they are not carrying an ICVP with proof of polio vaccination. Information from Pakistan airport websites indicates that checking for polio vaccination is standard as part of the departures procedure.