ISLAMABAD — In what could be regarded as another certificate of Pakistan’s defeat in fight against polio, India has made it necessary for Pakistanis to have oral polio vaccination six week before leaving for any destination in India.
According to fresh directives issued by Indian High Commission in Pakistan Tuesday evening, this condition will be applicable to Pakistanis travelling to India after January 30.
“All persons - adults and children travelling to India from Pakistan after January 30, 2014 are required to obtain Oral Polio Vaccination (OPV) at least six week prior to their departure to India, but not more than one year before such departure,” a press statement issued to Pakistani media stated.
“Travellers from Pakistan to India after January 30, 2014 are required to carry their vaccination record as evidence of polio vaccination will be requested for entry into India thereafter,” it said.
The statement however revealed that Pakistan has not been singled out on this count as the same condition would be applicable to all travellers from all countries where polio disease is endemic or where cases of polio are reported. It is also applicable to Indian nationals travelling to and from these countries.
Record for administering OPV may be obtained from an authorised medical centre in the format laid out in the World Health Organisation’s International Health Regulations 2005 International Certificate of Vaccination. Once administered OPV remains effective for one year, after which vaccination should be taken again.
Despite tall claims by the Pakistani authorities, polio various is spreading again as 72 polio cases were reported across Pakistan this year (until December 8, 2013) as compared to 57 in 2012. With these 72 cases, Pakistan has surpassed Nigeria, which reported 50 cases in 2013, and Afghanistan where only nine cases have surfaced this year (until December 9, 2013).
In sharp contrast, India is all set to attain polio-free country status in 2014 as not even a single polio case has been reported there this year.
Sources said on Tuesday that increasing number of polio cases this year and reports about polio’s spread from Pakistan to Syria may compel the world to ban Pakistani citizens entering from their respective jurisdictions. “Pakistani citizens may face travel ban if polio was not combated in the country,” a senior official of Pakistan’s anti-polio drive told TheNation on Tuesday.
As Pakistan struggles to battle polio, a prominent religious seminary in Pakistan has recently backed polio vaccinations arguing they are not un-Islamic. The decree was issued by Maulana Samiul Haq, who also heads a political party, and he urged parents to get their children immunised.
The fatwa comes amid a decade-long campaign of violence by extremist groups based in areas bordering Afghanistan, against health workers who they accuse of being spies or part of a Western plot to sterilise Muslims.
Campaign against polio has almost been stalled following a bomb attack on a vaccination team in Peshawar, provincial capital of KPK province. Two people were killed and 20 wounded in that bombing.
The incident was the latest in a series of attacks against UN-backed health workers, who have been targeted by armed groups. Earlier in 2013, militants had killed two female polio health workers in northwestern Pakistan.