India has made polio vaccination mandatory for people going to or coming from seven polio-endemic countries in a bid to stop the disease from re-entering the country. India will officially be declared polio-free on Tuesday by the WHO after three consecutive years of no new polio cases.
People going to or coming from Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Syria will have to get polio vaccination certificates. The travel requirement will come into force from March 1 and will require travelers to take polio drops at least a month before arrival or departure from India. The certificate will be valid for one year.
“It’s very similar to regulation for yellow fever. People coming to India or going to or transiting through the seven countries will need to carry a certificate of vaccination against polio,” said Union health secretary Keshav Desiraju.
"I'm travelling to Pakistan next month and I've got polio drops," said Desiraju.
The district immunisation officer will issue the certificate, which will also be needed when applying for a visa to India and during travel to these countries.
The list of countries will be updated periodically, depending on where polio outbreaks are happening.
Re-introduction of polio is a major problem. Since 2000, 49 countries that were polio-free suffered from one or more importations of wild poliovirus.
Of the 400 infections worldwide in 2013, only 160 occurred in polio-endemic countries. Syria, Cameroon, Ethiopia and Kenya had outbreaks in 2013 after being free of polio in 2012.
Eight polio cases have been reported in 2014 (till February 5), seven from Pakistan and one from Afghanistan. Pakistan is the only country with areas of uncontrolled transmission of polio, particularly in parts of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
India already has some precautions to prevent re-importation. Since 2011, all children under five crossing Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Bhutan are given polio drops at 102 border-crossing posts.