Going to Pakistan? Check your polio shot status

The advice also applies to frequent travellers who can get the vaccine even before they travel, according to a health ministry official.


Asma Ali Zain

Published: Wed 21 May 2014, 9:38 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 8:57 PM

Expatriates travelling to Pakistan from the UAE and planning to stay there for more than four weeks should be vaccinated against polio at least four weeks prior to travel, the UAE Ministry of Health has recommended as per the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) temporary requirements.

The advice also applies to frequent travellers who can get the vaccine even before they travel, according to a senior official from the ministry.

Dr Ibrahim Al Qadi, director of preventive medicine department, told Khaleej Times the ministry was monitoring the global situation of wild polio closely after the WHO declared earlier this month that Pakistanis travelling anywhere in the world need to prove that they have been vaccinated against the crippling disease.

Shortage of vaccine

There is a polio vaccine shortage in some travellers’ clinics, according to Pakistani expatriates who had enquired about the vaccine recently.

Liaque Ahmed, a Dubai-based businessman who travels to Lahore frequently, said when he called the Dubai Health Authority’s travellers’ clinic to enquire about the polio vaccine, he was told that there was a shortage.

“I am now trying private clinics,” he said, adding that he would otherwise have to get it done in Pakistan.

Bushra Naseem, a mother of two planning to spend the summer break in her native Karachi, said she would prefer to take the vaccination in the UAE. “I am afraid that I may carry the virus and want to make sure that I am vaccinated, so that my children are safe.”

Pakistan has been given until June 1 to implement the WHO recommendations.

“The recent WHO statement on the meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee concerning the international spread of wild poliovirus had several recommendations for the affected countries,” he said. “That includes implementation of certain vaccination requirements for states which are currently exporting wild poliovirus: Pakistan, Cameroon, and the Syrian Arab Republic.”

“Long-term visitors (those staying in Pakistan for more than four weeks) should receive a dose of oral polio vaccine (OPV) or inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) four weeks to 12 months prior to travel to Pakistan,” he advised.

Earlier this month, the WHO recommended that travellers from the countries affected ensure that they have an international certificate of vaccination or prophylaxis from their countries to prove they received a dose of OPV or IPV four weeks to 12 months before the journey or at least by the time of departure from the home country.

Dr Qadi said adults who do not have any proof that they received a dose of OPV or IPV in childhood should also take a dose of polio vaccine. However, children who have been following the UAE National Immunisation Programme have been immunised routinely with polio vaccines, and this is recorded in their vaccination card.

“The WHO recommendations are targeting long-term as well as frequent travellers to Pakistan,” said Dr Qadi. “For all others, a polio vaccine dose is not recommended.”

Dr Swagata Mallick, a paediatrician at the iCare Group, said, “Even one case of polio virus can lead to mass infection… So it is important to eradicate the the disease.”

Currently, children up to five years are vaccinated under the UAE’s National Immunisation Programme.

Dr Javed Rehman, a general practitioner with the Aster Group, said as per the WHO, 60 per cent of the cases had spread through the movements of adults. “People are enquiring about the vaccine… If vaccinated here, they will be given a certificate that will remain valid for a year.”


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