The Travel Health and Vaccine Specialists

Health Alert


Polio : vaccine advice

Updated July 4, 2018

Updated: June 29, 2018

Information for health care professionals has been updated to reflect the release of the seventeenth statement from the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee regarding the international spread of poliovirus.

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, 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:

have not received all the recommended doses of polio vaccine according to provincial/territorial vaccination schedule
do not know your vaccination history
Infants and children under 18 years of age:

Polio is part of the routine childhood immunization schedule for children in Canada. Also see provincial/territorial immunization information.
Make sure your child has received all recommended doses before travelling.
Adults (18 years and older):

Get a booster dose if you have not received all the recommended doses of polio vaccine according to provincial/territorial vaccination schedule and have not received a booster dose against polio since your 18th birthday.
Get the remaining doses before leaving if you have not completed your polio vaccine series.
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:

See Travel advice and advisories by country
Select your destination and click “Go!”.
Click the Health tab.
Click the Vaccines link and scroll down to Polio for detailed information.
Remember to check the health information for each country you plan to visit.
Eat and drink safely

Always take precautions with food and water to avoid getting sick.
Only eat foods that are well cooked and served hot.
Drink water that has been boiled, disinfected or is in a commercially sealed bottle.
Practise good hand hygiene:

Wash your hands frequently
Use soap and warm running water for at least 20 seconds:
before eating
before and after handling food
after using the bathroom
after changing diapers
Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
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 February 14, 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.

Registration of Canadians Abroad
Sign up with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service to stay connected with the Government of Canada in case of an emergency abroad or an emergency at home.

Related links
About polio (Poliomyeltis)
Sickness or injury when travelling
Travel Advice and Advisories
Eat and drink safely
If you get sick after travelling
Travel Vaccinations
Poliomyeltis (Polio)
Other Resources
Global Polio Eradication Initiative
World Health Organization: Poliomyeltis fact sheet
World Health Organization: Statement of the seventeenth IHR Emergency Committee Regarding the International Spread of Poliovirus
World Health Organization: Disease outbreak news

Date modified: 2017-04-05