ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will set up mandatory polio immunisation points at its international airports in response to recommendations by the World Health Organisation, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday.
The WHO warned Monday that the crippling disease has re-emerged as a public health emergency, with the virus currently affecting 10 countries worldwide and endemic in three including Pakistan. “Special measures will include establishing mandatory immunisation counters on all airports, border crossings and seaports for all travellers,” said ministry spokesman Sajid Ali Shah. The WHO had called on Pakistan, Cameroon and Syria, seen as posing the greatest risk of exporting wild poliovirus, to ensure all residents and long-term visitors receive a polio vaccine between four weeks and a year before travelling abroad.
For urgent travel, at least one vaccine dose should be given before departure, according to the emergency committee, which also called for all travellers to be given certificates proving they have been immunised. Shah could not confirm whether long-term non-Pakistani residents would also be subject to immunisation under the new initiative. “That will be decided in a meeting scheduled soon,” he said. According to the WHO, Pakistan recorded 91 cases of polio last year, up from 58 in 2012. It has also recorded 59 of the world’s 74 cases this year.
The government has convened a meeting of all the provincial health ministers and representatives of health departments today (Wednesday) in Islamabad to devise a comprehensive strategy to address the issue. Minister for Health Services and National Regulations Saira Afzal Tarar told the National Assembly on Tuesday that the WHO travel restrictions are not Pakistan-specific, as two other countries, Cameron and Syria, have also given the same treatment. “The government has called a meeting of all the provincial health ministers and representatives of health departments tomorrow (Wednesday) to devise a strategy to address the issue,” she told the House.
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