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Polio vaccination for stays in countries with polio outbreaks

Published Updated


The World Health Organization (WHO) is still reporting an increase in cases of polio (poliomyelitis) in several countries. The Norwegian Institute of Public Health recommends vaccination before travelling to countries with outbreaks to protect against infection and to avoid further spread of the virus.

As of March 2019, the recommendations apply to the following countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Somalia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Kenya, Mosambique, Syria, DR Congo, Cameroon, Niger, Chad and Central African Republic. More information:

Statement on the 20th IHR Emergency Committee meeting regarding the international spread of poliovirus (WHO March 2019)

Vaccine advice with travel and longer stays in countries with polio outbreaks

WHO requires countries with a high risk of export of the polio virus to offer vaccination to everyone travelling from these countries. This applies per march 2019 to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Somalia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia (new on list). This comes in addition to intensification of polio vaccination to the population. To prevent the export of infection from these countries, vaccination must be given 4 weeks and 12 months before leaving these countries. This applies to visitors who will reside in the country over 4 weeks. The vaccination must be documented with international vaccine certificate.

The vaccination advice applies to people of all ages. Children must also have been vaccinated during the 12 months before departure from these countries, even though the Norwegian immunisation programme considers them to be fully vaccinated. When infants are going to travel to the above countries, the public health clinic may consider earlier vaccination, and may consider the 4-dose programme for infants who will not have time to get two doses of polio vaccine before departure. The polio vaccine is administered at vaccination clinics, public health clinics or by a general practitioner.

DR Congo, Niger and Mosambique (new on list) also have polio outbreaks, but these are of a milder type (vaccine-derived polio virus). Recently, such viruses have also been found in environmental samples in Kenya. WHO and Norwegian health authorities recommend that people travelling from these countries should follow the same advice.

Syria, Cameroon, Niger, Chad and the Central African Republic are considered to be vulnerable to polio outbreaks, even though they have not yet reported any polio cases. When travelling to these countries, it is important to ensure updated polio vaccination.

About polio and polio vaccine

Polio (poliomyelitis) is a viral disease caused by three known types of polio virus: types 1, 2 and 3. It can be eradicated by a vaccine because it is only found in humans.

Over 90 % of those infected have no symptoms but excrete the virus in faeces. 9 per cent have vague, influenza-like symptoms, while less than 1 per cent develop paralysis. The paralysis can affect muscles anywhere in the body and death may occur. The last major polio epidemic in Norway took place in the mid-1950s, and the last domestic infection occurred in 1969.

The use of polio vaccine has led control of the disease in most places in the world, and the WHO European Region was declared polio-free in 2002. Polio virus exists today only in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria, and in 2017 there were fewer cases than ever before.

There are two types of polio vaccine, one inactivated (IPV - used in Norway) and a live, weakened oral vaccine (OPV) used in many countries. Polio disease caused by vaccine can only occur with the use of the live, weakened oral vaccine. In a population with low immunity, vaccine virus may begin to circulate and, in a few cases, gradually reclaim the ability to elicit polio with paralysis (circulating vaccine-induced polio virus (cVDPV)). In March 2019, vaccine-derived polio virus is circulating in Somalia, Kenya, Nigeria, Niger, DR Congo, Mosambique and Indonesia.