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Why Does Your Child Need the Polio Vaccine?

Sara Connolly, MD, FAAP, Board Certified Pediatrician
January 3, 2019 . 2 min read

Your child will receive a total of four to five doses of polio vaccine between birth and age 6. The first three doses of IPV, or inactivated polio vaccine, are given beginning at age 2 months of age. The modern vaccine is unlike the polio vaccine that many parents received years ago. Today\’s IPV is an injection instead of an oral vaccine. Unlike the oral version, the IPV does not carry the risk of vaccine-associated paralytic poliomyelitis, which previously occurred in approximately eight vaccine recipients per year in the United States.

There was a time when all parents lived in fear of polio. Polio was known to infect nearly everyone and carried the risk of permanent paralysis of one or more limbs. The polio virus is transmitted in both the respiratory secretions and feces of infected individuals for weeks after infection. People with polio are most contagious immediately before showing symptoms, making prevention of transmission difficult. Furthermore, about 75 percent of people with polio have few or no symptoms but remain contagious. The first polio vaccine was licensed in the US in 1955, and there has not been a case of naturally occurring polio in the US since 1979.

There are still several countries in the world where polio remains, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria. Polio was also identified in the sewer system in Israel late last year for the first time in a decade. No cases of illness in that country have been confirmed. There is a large global campaign to completely eradicate polio from the earth, but until then, it remains important to complete your child’s vaccination schedule.

Most people who receive the vaccine have no side effects. There is always a chance of soreness at the site of injection. According to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention vaccine information sheet there has never been a serious reaction reported. People who are allergic to neomycin, streptomycin, or polymyxin B should be cautious and discuss their risk with their doctor before receiving the vaccine as it may be contained in very small amounts of these.

Sources:

  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • Red Book: 2012 Report of the Committee on Infectious Diseases
  • Pickering LK, ed
  • 29th ed
  • Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2012.
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Polio Vaccine Side Effects.
    New York Times
  • Polio Virus Discovered in Sewage from Israel.

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