The Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) has clarified the country's new regulations requiring oral polio vaccine (OPV) for travelers from certain poliovirus-affected countries. According to the MOHFW, all nationals of certain poliovirus-endemic and poliovirus-affected countries will be required to present authorized certificates when attempting to enter India, documenting that they have received the OPV between four weeks and one year prior to departure to India. These countries include:
A valid OPV certificate will be required for nationals of these countries while applying for entry visas to India. Furthermore, Indian residents traveling to any of these countries must also obtain such documentation. These regulations will now go into effect on March 1, 2014, instead of the original Feb. 14 date.
Background and Analysis
Indian health authorities have not identified any wild poliovirus cases since January 2011, and these new vaccine requirements are an attempt to prevent the disease from being re-introduced into India via international travel. The current list of affected countries includes most countries that have reported human polio infections in the past year, but it remains unclear why India has not also targeted nationals from Cameroon, which also experienced imported polio activity in 2013. Furthermore, it is unclear how often or how quickly Indian authorities will reconsider their list of polio-affected countries.
The clarifying MOHFW statement has indicated that nationals from countries not on the list of seven affected countries will not be required to obtain OPV for entry to India. This includes nationals of other countries who are entering India through or after an extended stay in one of the listed countries. Furthermore, foreign nationals of unlisted countries residing in India who plan to travel to a listed country will not be required to obtain OPV as an Indian national would. However, the MOHFW has also clarified that nationals of listed countries will be required to obtain OPV, even if they have previously completed polio immunization using the injectable inactivated polio vaccine (IPV).
According to the MOHFW, each district in India has designated at least one center where OPV will be provided to travelers and OPV certificates will be issued. It remains unclear how Indian officials are authorizing vaccination centers in the listed countries to provide OPV to travelers and issue Indian-recognized OPV certification. Affected travelers who cannot produce a recognized certificate will be vaccinated with a single dose of OPV upon arrival in India and will be issued a new vaccination certificate free of charge. Finally, the MOHFW guidelines indicate that OPV certification will be required for visa applications, and it remains unclear if any controls will be implemented at international entry points.
Nationals of listed countries should contact local health authorities or the Indian embassy in their country to identify vaccination centers that Indian officials have authorized to provide OPV and issue OPV certification. Nationals of unlisted countries may consider carrying a copy of the MOHFW statement indicating that they are not required to carry OPV certification.