ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Starting January 31st, Pakistanis travelling to India must be vaccinated against polio, the Indian embassy said Wednesday (December 11th), AFP reported.
All adults and children traveling to India from Pakistan will be required to receive the Oral Polio Vaccination (OPV) at least six weeks before their scheduled trip and also show proof of vaccination upon entry, the Indian High Commission in Islamabad said in a statement.
"The step is being taken to safeguard India's polio-free status attained after sustained efforts and investment," the high commission said, adding that the new policy would apply to people travelling to India from all countries where polio is endemic – including Afghanistan and Nigeria – or where polio cases have been reported.
Pakistan has struggled to combat the crippling disease. Opposition from the Taliban and other militant groups has hampered efforts to immunise children against the polio virus. In some cases, members of vaccination teams have been murdered.
An outbreak of polio that affected more than a dozen children in war-torn Syria was linked to a strain of the virus from Taliban-controlled areas of Pakistan, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced last month.
On Tuesday, however, a group of Pakistani religious scholars, including Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, head of Dar-ul-Uloom Haqqania seminary, urged parents to disregard the militants and immunise their children.
"According to Sharia there is no harm in using vaccines which medical experts recommend to save children against deadly diseases," the statement, seen by AFP, said.
"Polio, measles, tetanus, tuberculosis...are fatal and dangerous diseases and the vaccines to save young children and pregnant women are effective and harmless. There is no reality in the doubts and suspicions being spread against these vaccines," it said.