WHO extends travel restrictions on Pakistan


ISLAMABAD (ANN): Emphasising persistent risk of a polio outbreak in Pakistan, the World Health Organisation (WHO) extended travel restrictions on the country for another three months.

The decision was taken during a session of International Health Regulations’ (2005) Emergency Committee – responsible for assessing global poliovirus spread – convened by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The committee expressed concerns over Pakistan’s efforts to reach a large number of children through its polio eradication campaign. It also highlighted the gaps in Pakistan and Afghanistan’s efforts to eliminate polio.

It emphasised that recent favorable environmental samples from Peshawar and Karachi underscore the persistent risk of a polio outbreak in Pakistan.

The committee highlighted that a new case of Wild Poliovirus Type 1 (WP1) emerged in Pakistan since the last meeting, bringing the 2023 total to two cases. Both instances occurred in the Bannu district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province.

“Although the action plan in southern KP has resulted in 160,000 more children being vaccinated, the context remains challenging — including political instability, insecurity in some areas with front-line workers requiring police patrols to accompany them and vaccination boycotts,” the committee added.

In Afghanistan, since the last meeting, there have been five new WPV1 cases reported, all from Nangarhar province, the emergency committee said. “Any setback in Afghanistan poses a risk to the programme in Pakistan due to high population movement,” it warned.

The emergency committee warned that due to the ongoing transmission in eastern Afghanistan with cross-border spread into Pakistan and the large pool of unvaccinated zero-dose children in southern Afghanistan constitutes an ongoing risk of WPV1 re-introduction into the southern region.

WHO’s International Travel and Health recommends that all travellers to polio-affected areas be fully vaccinated against polio. Residents (and visitors for more than 4 weeks) from infected areas should receive an additional dose of OPV or inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) within 4 weeks to 12 months of travel.


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