ISLAMABAD - The Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination has sought clarification from the World Health Organization (WHO) about polio vaccination of expecting women and patients with serious ailments.

Following the WHO warning, Pakistan made mandatory polio vaccination for travellers leaving the country from June 1. The ministry spokesman, Sajid Shah, said that the pregnant women travelling abroad were not exempted from the restrictions and the vaccination was not injurious for them.

However, officials say in several instances, expecting women travelling abroad on the advice of gynecologists have refused oral polio vaccine (OPV). With fears that immune system may be affected, queries whether pregnant women and patients with fatal diseases like HIV/AIDS be administered polio drops or not are surfaced.

“There have been some instances when pregnant ladies contended at exit points they should be allowed to proceed travelling abroad without vaccination since oral polio vaccine is contraindicated in their case.

 To substantiate their claim, they also presented outdoor tickets/prescription of gynecologists advising against taking oral polio vaccine since it carries live attenuated polio virus which can according to them potentially harm the fetus.” the ministry communicated to the WHO.

The women also say: “Gynecologists are advising them getting inactivated polio vaccine injections from the market since it contains killed polio virus which according to them was safe for their fetus”.

Inactivated polio vaccine is currently unavailable in the public sector and only oral polio vaccine is being administered to all intending travellers at designated centers across the country and at points of exit.

Standard operating procedures and certificates of vaccination, issued by the ministry, clearly indicate that all intending travellers including pregnant women will be immunised against polio with oral polio vaccine. And according to WHO’s guidelines oral polio, vaccine is not contraindicated in pregnancy but in the light of the current situation, the ministry sought clarification from the WHO on the matter.

The ministry has requested the international health agency to consult leading pediatricians and gynecologists and take their opinion prior to sending a response.