WHO issues update on international spread of wild poliovirus

22 March 2022

Article: 56/1105

The thirty-first meeting of the Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005), regarding the international spread of wild poliovirus (WPV), was convened via video conference by World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on 28 February 2022. 

The committee agreed that the situation still constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) and recommended the extension of the temporary recommendations for a further three months, although the committee noted concerns regarding the lengthy duration of the polio PHEIC and the importance of exploring alternative IHR measures in the future. 

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
  • Malawi
  • Yemen

The global situation with polio virus is ongoing and TRAVAX users are urged to check the polio vaccination recommendations and documentation requirements on individual country pages

Advice for travellers 

Travellers should be encouraged to take strict precautions with food, water and personal hygiene. Further information can be found on the TRAVAX poliomyelitis page

In order to comply with the latest WHO temporary recommendations and to ensure travellers do not receive the live oral polio vaccine (OPV) unnecessarily when departing polio-infected countries, authorities in the UK have made a number of vaccination recommendations.

  • Travellers should consider receiving a booster dose of a polio-containing vaccine if they have not had one in the past 12 months and will be visiting one of the polio-infected or potentially exporting countries for longer than four weeks. This supersedes current advice given in the 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 countries listed above, proof of vaccination should be documented on the standard ICVP. 

International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP) 

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 OPV, which may cause problems for individuals with weakened immune systems, including pregnancy, who should not receive live OPV. 

In Scotland, paper ICVP’s can be obtained from Public Health Scotland (PHS) by emailing your full name and postal address to the TRAVAX administration team, with TRAVAX polio FAQs providing further clarification. For the rest of the UK, paper ICVP's can be obtained from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC)

Further guidance on poliovirus can be found on the TRAVAX (for health professionals) and fitfortravel (for the general public) websites. 

Source: TRAVAX, 16 March 2022