Polio: vaccine advice

Updated: December 14, 2018


Original publication date: March 07, 2018.

Why should you be concerned with polio?

Polio infections still occur in a few countries around the world specifically Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. Outbreaks have also been reported recently in Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Niger, Papua New Guinea, Somalia, and Syria. Neighbouring countries to those where polio cases are being reported are at increased risk of polio.

There is no cure for polio, but it can be prevented by vaccination. Some countries may require that you show proof of polio vaccination to enter or leave their country. The International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis is the official document used to show proof of vaccination against polio. This is the only document accepted as proof of vaccination. It is currently available at Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres in Canada.

What is polio?

Polio (Poliomyeltis) is a highly contagious disease. It can cause paralysis and death. It is spread through the feces of a person who is infected with the virus. It enters the body through your mouth, mainly from food or water that is contaminated with feces.

How can you protect yourself from polio virus?

Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.  Tell your health care professional where you will be travelling and for how long.

If you are travelling to a country where there is a risk of polio, get vaccinated against polio if you:  

Infants and children under 18 years of age:

Adults (18 years and older):

Get fully vaccinated against polio if you have not received any vaccines against polio.

Find out where polio is circulating and if you need proof of vaccination:

Eat and drink safely

Practise good hand hygiene:

Information for health care professionals

The Committee to Advise on Tropical Medicine and Travel (CATMAT) has developed a statement on poliovirus and the international traveller in accordance with the World Health Organization's (WHO) temporary recommendations to provide guidance for health care professionals who are preparing travellers to visit areas with a risk of polio.

On November 30, 2018 the WHO released an update regarding the international spread of polio and temporary recommendations. The situation is reviewed every three months.

For the latest updates on WHO Temporary Recommendations please consult the Global Eradication Initiative.

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