ISLAMABAD: India announced a mandatory proof of vaccination against polio from January 30 next year for both adults and children travelling from Pakistan to India, Press Trust of India (PTI) reported. The new measure will also apply to Indian nationals travelling to and from countries where polio is endemic.
“The step is being taken to safeguard India’s polio-free status attained after sustained efforts and investment,” a statement from the Indian High Commission in Islamabad stated.
“It is applicable to all travellers from all countries where polio disease is endemic or where cases of polio are reported,” it said.
With this measure in place, Pakistani travellers will have to carry their vaccination records while travelling to India, or face being turned back from their port of entry.
Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the only three countries where polio remains endemic.
According to the Indian High Commission’s statement, travelers need to take the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) at least six weeks before their departure to India but not more than a year before the trip.
In October this year, an outbreak of polio reported among young children in northeast Syria was said to be “probably originating in Pakistan” the World Health Organization (WHO) said. The organization pointed out that this spread of the virus poses a threat to millions of children across the Middle East.
“We know a polio virus from Pakistan was found in the sewage of Cairo in December. The same virus was found in Israel in April, also in the West Bank and Gaza. It… is putting the whole Middle East at risk quite frankly,” Bruce Aylward, WHO assistant director-general for polio, emergencies and country collaboration had said.
Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world where the highly infectious disease which cripples limbs remains endemic.
“Last year there were a total of 58 cases, but 62 fresh victims of polio have already been reported in 2013,” a senior government official, who works with international donors working to eradicate polio, said in a report last month.
Opposition from militant groups has hampered efforts to vaccinate children against polio in Pakistan and officials said violence was part of the reason for the increase in cases.