Traveling? You may need to get a polio vaccine certificate – here’s how
MANILA, Philippines – Tourists departing the Philippines may have one other thing to consider when they make their plans to travel abroad: getting a polio vaccine certificate.
A polio outbreak was declared in the Philippines in September, after 19 years of the country being free of the virus – which means departing travelers may be required by certain countries to present an International Certificate of Vaccination (ICV) against polio.
Polio vaccine basics
There are two types of polio vaccines: Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV), and Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV).
The vaccination schedule for preventing polio, as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) involves 3 doses of oral polio vaccine (OPV) and one dose of inactivated polio vaccine (IPV). It is the OPV that contains live, weakened virus that may cause the vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV). (READ: EXPLAINER: What is polio?)
This vaccination schedule is typically administered to children aged 5 and below, who are the most vulnerable to the virus.
But adults from infected areas are required to get an additional booster dose of the polio vaccine, even if they've completed their vaccines as a child.
According to the WHO website, “Travellers from infected areas should receive an additional dose of OPV (Oral Polio Vaccine) or IPV (Inactivated Polio Vaccine) within 4 weeks to 12 months of travel,” to boost their immunity and reduce the risk of reintroducing the virus to a polio-free area.
“Some polio-free countries may require such travellers from polio-infected countries to provide documentation of recent vaccination against polio in order to obtain an entry visa, or they may require that travellers receive an additional dose of polio vaccine on arrival, or both,” WHO said.
At the same time, the Department of Health (DOH) encouraged departing travelers to check immunization requirements of the country they’re visiting, and receive a dose of IPV if required.
According to ABS-CBN, at least 9 countries so far require a polio vaccination certificate on arrival, including Brunei, Morocco, Qatar, and Maldives.
How to get your ICV
If you’re scheduled to travel abroad from the Philippines soon, here’s what you need to do:
1. Contact your destination’s embassy or consulate in the Philippines to inquire about their immunization requirements. If a polio vaccine certificate is required by the country you’re visiting, you obviously need to get a booster shot.
2. You can get the vaccine either through a private hospital or directly at the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ), which issues the International Certificate of Vaccination (ICV) that you'll need to present to the countries you're visiting. However, the BOQ only administers the OPV. If you'd rather get the IPV, ask your family doctor or a private hospital.
3. If you get your vaccination from a private doctor, they'll need to issue you a signed medical certificate that includes the name and lot number of the vaccine administered to you.
4. Bring your medical certificate to the BOQ, where you will need to fill out a form for the issuance of the ICV. This can also be done by a messenger or a third party for 5 people at most, provided he or she has an authorization letter.
5. Pay the P300 fee for the issuance of the ICV, which you will receive on the same day, though you may have to wait a few hours. This should be valid for a lifetime, as long you don't lose it. The fee is the same for those who get vaccinated directly at the BOQ.
Keep your ICV with you at all times when you travel (best to insert it in a safe place, like your passport holder), and present it to the proper authorities when required. The entire process – from vaccination to getting the BOQ, can be done within a day, and after that, you'll be ready to travel! – Rappler.com