Pakistan to set up polio vaccination points at airports (Update)

May 6, 2014

Pakistan will set up mandatory immunisation points at airports to help stop its polio outbreak spreading abroad, officials said Tuesday, though a health minister said the move played into the Taliban's hands.

The World Health Organisation warned on 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—and urged infected nations to implement vaccine requirements for all international travel.

"Special measures will include establishing mandatory immunisation counters on all airports, border crossings and seaports for all travellers," said Pakistani government spokesman Sajid Ali Shah.

Saira Afzal Tarar, state minister for Health Sciences Regulation and Coordination, said officials had yet to work out the details of when and how the policy would be implemented.

"Passengers travelling abroad now should not worry about it," she told AFP, adding that the government would hold a meeting on Wednesday with provincial ministers and health officials to discuss the vaccination programme, and had already reached out to religious scholars.

But she accused the WHO of playing into the Taliban's hands, saying the health body's recommendations had isolated Pakistan and would make life harder for ordinary Pakistanis—thereby helping the militants achieve their goals.

"By recommending travel restrictions on Pakistan, the WHO has strengthened those forces who actually banned polio drops," she said.

The Taliban and other militants violently oppose polio vaccination campaigns—seeing them as a cover for foreign spying—and regularly attack immunisation teams, killing some 56 people since December 2012.

Widespread public fears that the vaccine leads to infertility have also contributed to a re-emergence of the disease in Pakistan.

Pakistan recorded 91 cases of polio last year, according to the WHO, up from 58 in 2012. It has also recorded 59 of the world's 74 cases this year.

Militants' opposition to immunisation has increased since Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi helped the CIA track down terror chief Osama bin Laden in 2011 through a fake vaccine project.

Tarar blamed the surge of cases in Pakistan mainly on "a reaction to the Afridi case".

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.

Government spokesman Sajid Ali Shah said it had not yet been decided whether long-term non-Pakistani residents would also be subjected to the new rules.

Last month officials announced they would begin administering polio drops to children at security checkpoints in the country's lawless tribal belt.

Polio—a crippling and potentially fatal viral disease that mainly affects children under the age of five—has come close to being beaten as the result of a 25-year effort.

India, which recently celebrated the eradication of the disease, announced in December it would require Pakistanis to obtain vaccination certificates six weeks before cross-border travel.

Explore further: WHO declares polio 'public health emergency' (Update)

Related Stories

WHO declares polio 'public health emergency' (Update)

May 5, 2014
The World Health Organization warned Monday that polio has reemerged as a public health emergency, after new cases of the crippling disease began surfacing and spreading across borders from countries like Syria and Pakistan.

Pakistan to vaccinate 750,000 children in troubled northwest

March 29, 2014
Pakistani health teams will Sunday launch a drive to vaccinate some 750,000 children in the troubled northwest, with thousands of police guarding against attacks by militants who claim the polio campaign is a front for spying.

Pakistan records 72 polio cases in 2013: WHO

December 4, 2013
Pakistan recorded 72 cases of polio this year compared to 58 for all of 2012, a World Health Organisation (WHO)official said on Wednesday.

WHO starts emergency polio talks

April 28, 2014
The World Health Organization announced on Monday that it had convened emergency talks amid rising concern over polio after cases were discovered in Afghanistan, Iraq and Equatorial Guinea.

Polio returns to Afghan capital after 13 years

February 11, 2014
Afghanistan has launched an emergency polio vaccination campaign in Kabul after a girl contracted the disease, the city's first case since the Taliban were ousted in 2001.

Polio cases in Pakistan pass 2012 total

November 13, 2013
Polio is on the rise in Pakistan, health officials said Wednesday, as the number of infections in 2013 passed the total for the whole of 2012.

Recommended for you

Research examines lung cell turnover as risk factor and target for treatment of influenza pneumonia

July 24, 2017
Influenza is a recurring global health threat that, according to the World Health Organization, is responsible for as many as 500,000 deaths every year, most due to influenza pneumonia, or viral pneumonia. Infection with ...

Scientists propose novel therapy to lessen risk of obesity-linked disease

July 24, 2017
With obesity related illnesses a global pandemic, researchers propose in the Journal of Clinical Investigation using a blood thinner to target molecular drivers of chronic metabolic inflammation in people eating high-fat ...

Raccoon roundworm—a hidden human parasite?

July 24, 2017
The raccoon that topples your trashcan and pillages your garden may leave more than just a mess. More likely than not, it also contaminates your yard with parasites—most notably, raccoon roundworms (Baylisascaris procyonis).

Google searches can be used to track dengue in underdeveloped countries

July 20, 2017
An analytical tool that combines Google search data with government-provided clinical data can quickly and accurately track dengue fever in less-developed countries, according to new research published in PLOS Computational ...

MRSA emerged years before methicillin was even discovered

July 19, 2017
Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) emerged long before the introduction of the antibiotic methicillin into clinical practice, according to a study published in the open access journal Genome Biology. It was ...

New test distinguishes Zika from similar viral infections

July 18, 2017
A new test is the best-to-date in differentiating Zika virus infections from infections caused by similar viruses. The antibody-based assay, developed by researchers at UC Berkeley and Humabs BioMed, a private biotechnology ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.