New Zealand will allow return of travelers with rabies-free records

New Zealand’s Ministry of Health announced Monday that it would amend its rules regarding immunization coverage requirements for international travelers starting in 2022.

“The revised rules, which apply to new visitors to New Zealand, will apply to single-entry visitors and long-term resident travelers (which means all visitors, no matter where they are from),” Ministry of Health officials said in a news release.

The changes will include allowing international travelers who complete immunization screenings and development plan approvals to be considered for entry into New Zealand with just a form of proof of immunity to rabies (which excludes hepatitis B and other vaccine preventable diseases) provided they have demonstrated a true risk of rabies transmission through foreign travel.

New Zealand has not seen a single case of rabies in a traveler returning from overseas travel in the last 15 years, officials said.

In order to qualify for the second option, a person must prove that they have had at least three consecutive exposures to wild animals under health restrictions in another country where rabies is endemic (i.e., where it is endemic in Europe and Asia and has been acquired through travel).

“For unvaccinated children traveling with their parents and schoolteachers, the Ministry will make an exception for immunization requirements,” the Ministry of Health said. “This will allow families to choose to have their children vaccinated in the United Kingdom or the United States if required.

Officials say the update is in line with public health requirements internationally and are also in line with the World Health Organization’s recommendations for rabies.

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