Polio Vaccine

What does the polio vaccine do?

The polio vaccine can protect people from polio — a disease that’s caused by a virus. Polio used to be very common in the United States; it paralyzed and killed thousands of people every year before the vaccine was introduced in the 1950s. Today, polio has been eliminated from the United States — but it still occurs in other parts of the world. The virus is spread mainly by person-to-person contact, but can also be spread by food or water that has been contaminated with the feces of an infected person. Although there is no cure for the polio infection, it can be prevented by vaccination.

How many doses will I need?

Most people are vaccinated when they’re children — doses are given at two, four, six, and 18 months of age, and four and six years of age. This schedule isn’t the same for every child, especially if he or she is living or traveling to certain countries where polio still exists. Because most people are vaccinated as children, many adults won’t need to be vaccinated. However, higher-risk adults may require one to three doses of the vaccine (depending on how many they’ve had in the past).

Who is the vaccine recommended for?

Children should receive the polio vaccine in the series stated above. However, adults who are considered to be at higher risk should also receive the vaccine. These individuals include:

  • People traveling to areas of the world where polio still exists, such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria
  • Laboratory workers who may handle the polio virus
  • Healthcare workers treating patients who could have polio

Who should not get the vaccine?

  • Anyone who has ever had a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction after a dose of the polio vaccine
  • Anyone who has had a severe allergy to any component of the vaccine
  • Anyone who has a moderate to severe illness should wait until they recover to receive the vaccine

Are there any side effects or risks associated with the polio vaccine?

There is always a chance that you’ll experience side effects after receiving any medication, this includes vaccines. Some people who receive the polio vaccine will experience mild side effects that typically go away on their own. These include a sore spot at the injection site. The polio vaccine has not been known to cause any severe problems.

SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)