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polioTravel suitcaseThe anticipation of a relaxing summer tends to put us in a jovial mood. But for people living in Pakistan, as well as those who have visited the country, there is a hitch – they are required to obtain a mandatory polio certificate prior to international travel. Therefore, if you are planning to travel, the sooner you are vaccinated, the better it is for both your peace of mind, and the health of the world.

Although the OPV (oral polio vaccine, in the form of drops) is better known, the IPV (inactivated polio vaccine) which is given via injection, is recommended for people who have had polio drops as a child.

To ensure that you are not detained at the airport, WHO recommends having the IPV four weeks prior to departure. At this point in time, only government hospitals and Town Health Offices are authorised to provide OPVs and IPVs – at nominal costs – and issue polio certificates. However, certificates issued by private hospitals prior to this change in policy are still valid.
Remember to get an original, verified copy of the polio certificate after the vaccination, as this has to be shown to the airline authorities before boarding the plane.

Polio drops have no known significant side-effects except the VAPP (Vaccine Associated Paralytic Polio), which is believed to affect an average of three out of 10 million people. The injection, on the other hand, may trigger mild allergic reactions or a fever in very rare cases.
For people who have not been vaccinated during childhood, up to four doses of the drops are required; the first three at an interval of a month each, and the last at the six month mark. However, if your vaccination course was completed as a child, you just need one injection. In addition to polio immunity, the injection boosts intestinal immunity.

– Dr Tariq Sohail
The writer works at the Department of Medicine,Civil Hospital, Karachi.

First published in the Health Advertiser Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on May 25, 2014.