Pakistani and Indian nationals travelling to each other’s countries will have to receive polio vaccination even if they have been immunised for the disease before, a new government directive has said.
The move comes following media reports that many travellers from Pakistan had produced fake immunisation certificates. For India, the worry is that polio remains endemic in Pakistan and Indian travellers to that country could pick up an infection. India was declared polio free by the World Health Organisation in 2014.
Chief Medical and Health Officer (CMHO), Barmer, Dr Sunil Kumar Bisth said that the medical workers are administering polio vaccine to passengers travelling on the Thar Express since receiving the directive last week. The train runs once a week between India and Pakistan.
Dr Bisth told the Hindustan Times that the government order said health workers should administer the vaccine even to those with a polio immunization certificate at the Munabao railway station. Pakistan had reported more than 200 polio cases in 2014.
Given reports of polio recurrence in the neighbouring country, a special polio immunisation drive was also launched from November 16 in Barmer. This step was taken after the Centre had identified Barmer and Jodhpur districts as high-risk areas after the polio reports from Pakistan. These two districts are at high risk as the Thar Express passes through them every Saturday ferrying hundreds of passengers, Dr Bisht said.
Earlier, the Indian High Commission in Islamabad had informed the Pakistan government that after the WHO’s declaration of a polio-free country, New Delhi had decided to make it mandatory for passengers to produce polio certificates on their arrival in India.
It had also drawn the Pakistani government’s attention to past instances where travellers had reached India on fake certificates. “It has been reported that forged polio certificates are being submitted with Indian visa applications. This is a serious offence. Detection of any forged documentation would result in summary rejection of the visa application and permanent denial of visa for future travel also. Visa applicants are advised to comply strictly with the polio certification requirements,” the High Commission said in its communication on October 1 last year.