The polio vaccine

The polio vaccine

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What are the benefits of the polio vaccine?

The polio vaccine protects against poliomyelitis (polio), a highly infectious disease caused by a virus that invades the nervous system. Before a vaccine was introduced in 1954, more than 20,000 cases of polio were reported annually in the United States, and about 1,000 people died each year.

Up to 95 percent of people infected with the virus have no symptoms, and many who do get sick have only mild symptoms such as a sore throat, fever, stomach pain, or nausea. Less common symptoms include headache and a stiff neck, back, or legs. Less than 1 percent of people who get polio become paralyzed.

Polio caused by the wild virus has been eliminated from the Western hemisphere. There hasn't been a case in the United States since 1979 or in the Americas since 1994.

Outbreaks of polio still happen in Africa and the Middle East, so a traveler could easily bring polio back to this country. But health officials believe the polio vaccine may eliminate the disease globally within a decade.

Is the vaccine given orally or in a shot?

All four doses of the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) are given by injection. Sometimes they're given at the same time as the DTaP, hepatitis B, or Hib vaccines.

Another type of vaccine – oral polio vaccine (OPV), which is made from a live, weakened version of the virus – has not been used in the United States since 2000. The OPV was considered somewhat more effective than the IPV.

Unfortunately, it had a very rare but dangerous side effect: About one in 2.4 million people who received the OPV contracted polio. Deciding that the risk of giving this vaccine was too great, the U.S. government removed it from the schedule. The IPV given today has been enhanced to protect children from polio just as effectively as the OPV.

What's the recommended schedule?

Recommended number of doses

Four doses

Recommended ages

  • At 2 months
  • At 4 months
  • Between 6 and 18 months
  • Between 4 and 6 years old

To track your child's immunizations, use BabyCenter's Immunization Scheduler.

Who shouldn’t get the polio vaccine?

A child who has ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to the antibiotics neomycin, streptomycin, or polymyxin B, or had a severe reaction to a previous dose of vaccine, should not get the polio shot.

Are there any precautions I should take?

Children who are moderately to severely ill should probably wait until they recover before getting the polio vaccine.

What are the possible side effects or risks of an adverse reaction?

Many children feel a little soreness at the site of the injection. No serious side effects from the IPV have been reported.

Severe allergic reactions are rare but possible with any vaccine. See what our expert says about how to tell whether your child's having an adverse reaction.

If your child has an adverse reaction to this or any other vaccine, talk to your child's doctor and report it to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.

Watch the video: The Polio Vaccine: A Dose of Prevention (July 2022).


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