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WHO temporary polio vaccine recommendations

Updated: January 21, 2016

Travel Health Notice

On November 10, 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) reassessed the temporary polio recommendations and declared that the international spread of wild poliovirus continues to constitute a public health emergency of international concern. As such, the WHO temporary recommendationsExternal link continue to be in place. The situation will be reassessed by the WHO within three months.

The WHO temporary recommendations currently apply to long term travellers (over 4 weeks) to:

  • countries currently exporting wild poliovirus or vaccine derived poliovirus which include Afghanistan and Pakistan; and
  • countries infected with wild poliovirus or vaccine derived poliovirus but not currently exporting which include Nigeria, Guinea, Madagascar, Ukraine and Laos. 

Travellers to these countries should follow the recommendations outlined below.

Polio is a very contagious infection that is caused by the poliovirus. There are currently two types of poliovirus circulating in some countries which cause human infection:

  • Wild polioviruses are those that occur naturally.
  • Circulating vaccine derived polioviruses (cVDPV) are rare strains of poliovirus that have mutated from the strain contained in the oral polio vaccine. CVDPV takes a long time to occur and happens when routine or supplementary immunization activities are poorly conducted and a population is left susceptible to poliovirus, whether from vaccine-derived or wild poliovirus. Hence, the problem is not with the vaccine itself, but low vaccination coverage.

If a population is fully immunized, they will be protected against both vaccine-derived and wild poliovirus.

The Global Polio Eradication InitiativeExternal link website offers additional detailed information regarding the temporary recommendations including weekly updates on the epidemiological situationExternal link and a breakdown of the number of cases of wild poliovirus by country.

The Public Health Agency of Canada will continue to monitor the situation and inform the public as information becomes available.

 

Recommendations for travellers

Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel.

Follow the WHO temporary recommendations:External link

  1. The WHO temporary recommendations apply to long term travellers (over 4 weeks) to: Afghanistan and Pakistan. These countries have been designated as “States currently exporting wild poliovirus or cVDPV” by the WHO IHR Emergency Committee. The WHO recommendations state these countries ensure that long term travellers to these countries:
    • Receive a dose of oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV) or inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) between four weeks and 12 months prior to international travel.
    • Be aware that a polio booster may be required to exit a designated country or enter into another, even if you already received an adult booster dose over a year ago.
    • Carry the appropriate documentation. It is recommended that you carry a written vaccination record in the event that evidence of vaccination is requested for country entry or exit requirements. Your proof of vaccination should be documented in the International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis which you can get from a Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre.
  2. The WHO temporary recommendations apply to long term travellers to countries “infected with wild poliovirus or cVDPV but not currently exporting” (Nigeria, Guinea, Madagascar, Ukraine and Laos).  The WHO recommendations state these countries encourage that long term travellers to these countries:
    • Receive a dose of oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV) or inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) between four weeks and 12 months prior to international travel. 
    • Should carry appropriate documentation of their vaccination status.
  3. Follow the recommendations for travellers outlined in the Public Health Agency of Canada’s travel health notice Polio: Global Update.

For additional information, WHO has developed frequently asked questions for travellersExternal link about the temporary recommendations.

Recommendations for health care providers

The Committee to Advise on Tropical Medicine and Travel (CATMAT) has developed a statement in accordance with the WHO temporary recommendations to provide guidance for health care professionals who are preparing travellers to visit areas with a risk of polio. It is recommended that travellers affected by these temporary recommendations carry a written vaccination record in the event that evidence of vaccination is requested for country entry or exit requirements. The International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis is the official document to show proof of vaccination against polio. It is currently available at Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres in Canada.  A complete list of these centres is available on the Agency’s website.