WHO temporary polio vaccine recommendations
Updated: October 15, 2015
Travel Health Notice
On May 5th, 2014 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the recent spread of poliovirus (polio) a public health emergency of international concern. They issued temporary polio vaccination recommendations for countries exporting wild polio and other polio-affected countries, to prevent further spread of the virus worldwide. These recommendations apply to residents of these countries prior to international travel and long-term visitors (staying more than 4 weeks) to these countries. For the list of affected countries, please see the Recommendations for travellers section below.
The WHO reassessed the temporary recommendations on August 10, 2015, and declared that the international spread of wild poliovirus continues to constitute a public health emergency of international concern. As such, the WHO temporary recommendation 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 two countries: Afghanistan and Pakistan. These countries have been designated by the WHO as states currently exporting wild poliovirus.
The WHO temporary recommendations no longer apply to the following countries: Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Israel, Nigeria, Somalia and Syria. These countries are defined by the WHO as states no longer infected by wild poliovirus but remain vulnerable to international spread.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative website offers additional detailed information regarding the temporary recommendations including weekly updates on the epidemiological situation and a breakdown of the number of cases of wild poliovirus by country.
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: The WHO temporary recommendations currently apply to long term travellers (over 4 weeks) to two countries: Afghanistan and Pakistan. These countries have been designated as “States currently exporting wild poliovirus” by the WHO IHR Emergency Committee. The WHO recommends 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.
- 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 travellers 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.