Polio travel restrictions: a sledgehammer to crack a nut?

Rashid Jooma, Aga Khan University


ABSTRACT: Imposition by WHO of mandatory vaccination for international travelers from Pakistan has caused confusion and panic amongst travelers besides the adverse effect on the country’s image from the widely reported statement. It is felt that the announced measure is not primarily supported by science but is rather a response to disillusionment in the donors about the repeatedly missed eradication targets set by WHO. In the past few years, exportation of poliovirus from Pakistan has caused outbreaks in China, Iraq and Syria besides the ongoing two way transmission with Afghanistan, but the carriers in these spreads are mainly land route travelers. Vaccinating all air travelers is unnecessarily punitive besides being probably ineffectual in halting exportation.
The unrelenting focus on polio eradication may have negative impact on fragile health systems besides arousing suspicions of religious elements opposed to vaccination. Routine vaccination and polio campaigns as part of community development measures such as provision of clean drinking water and elimination of surface sewage drainage would be more accepted. The government would be well advised to assume control of the polio eradication program and make it a national development issue.