International measures to stop the spread of wild polio virus: update

30 November 2021

Article: 55/4803

On 3 November 2021, the thirtieth meeting of the Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005) regarding the international spread of wild poliovirus, was convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The committee agreed that the situation still constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), and recommended the extension of the temporary recommendations.

Under IHR (2005), proof of polio vaccination recorded on an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP), given between four weeks to 12 months before departure, may be required on exit from the following countries: 

  • Afghanistan 
  • Pakistan 
  • Madagascar 
  • Yemen

As the global situation with polio virus is ongoing, vaccination recommendations and documentation requirements should be checked on the TRAVAX individual country pages (for health professionals) or fitfortravel destination pages (for the general public).

Advice for travellers

Travellers should be encouraged to take strict precautions with food, water and personal hygiene, with further information provided on the TRAVAX and fitfortravel poliomyelitis pages.

In order to comply with the latest WHO temporary recommendations, and also to avoid travellers receiving live oral polio vaccine unnecessarily when departing polio-infected countries, authorities in the UK have made a number of vaccination recommendations.

  • If visiting a polio-infected or potentially exporting country for longer than four weeks, travellers should consider receiving a booster dose of a polio-containing vaccine if they have not had one in the past 12 months. This advice supersedes current advice in the Public Health England (PHE) Green Book
  • Travellers should acquire this booster dose within 12 months of the date they plan to leave the polio-infected country. 
  • Travellers visiting one of these countries for less than four weeks should ensure they are up-to-date with routine polio vaccination, including ten yearly boosters. 
  • Travellers should carry proof of vaccination. For the countries listed above, proof of vaccination should be documented on the standard ICVP.

International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis

The ICVP is the yellow booklet normally used for yellow fever vaccination. Failure to produce an ICVP when departing a polio-endemic country may result in the traveller being vaccinated on their departure, often using live oral polio vaccine (OPV), which may cause problems for individuals with weakened immune systems, including pregnancy, who should not receive the live OPV.

In Scotland, paper ICVPs can be obtained from Public Health Scotland (PHS) by contacting the TRAVAX administration team and providing them with your full name and postal address. In the rest of UK, paper ICVP’s should be obtained from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

Source: TRAVAX, 25 November 2021