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Polio (IPV)

What is poliomyelitis?

Poliomyelitis, also called polio, is a highly contagious infectious disease caused by three types of poliovirus. The poliovirus is a virus most recognized for its destruction to the nervous system causing paralysis. The majority of individuals who are infected with polio, however, have no symptoms and few have mild symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, of those persons that do acquire the infection, 1 percent or fewer may develop paralytic disease. Since the advent of the polio vaccine during the early 1950s, and a global effort to eradicate the disease, infections from the poliovirus have nearly been eradicated. According to the World Health Organization, in 2010, there were only four areas of the world where significant numbers of polio cases still occur. These areas are Nigeria, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. 

What polio vaccine is recommended in the U.S.? 

Today, polio is extremely rare in the United States because of the use of the vaccine. However, it is still common in the countries mentioned above, and due to increased travel between countries, all children need to be immunized for protection from the disease. The type of polio vaccine recommended in the U.S. is called inactivated polio vaccine (IPV). This is an inactivated (killed) form of the virus and provides a very safe way to give immunity to polio. Another form called oral polio vaccine (OPV) was given in years past. But the OPV was a live-form of the virus and had a small risk of causing polio. OPV is still given in other countries because it is more effective than IPV in preventing the spread of polio.

When is IPV given?

IPV is given to babies and children in four doses at ages:

  • 2 months

  • 4 months

  • Between 6 to 18 months

  • 4 to 6 years

  • "Catch-up doses" may be given to older children and adults, if needed. 

Children who are sick or have a fever should wait until they are well to receive the polio vaccine. Some children should not receive IPV. These include those who have ever had an allergic reaction to the antibiotic neomycin, streptomycin, or polymyxin B, and those who have had a previous reaction to the polio vaccine. Always consult your child's doctor regarding vaccines.

What are the risks from IPV?

A vaccine, like any medication, is capable of causing serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. However, the IPV is very safe and most people have no problems other than soreness in the location where the shot was given.

How do I care for my child after immunization with IPV?

  • Give your child aspirin-free pain reliever, as directed by your child's doctor. Do not give aspirin.

  • An allergic reaction would most likely occur within a few minutes to a few hours of the shot. Signs may include difficulty breathing, wheezing, (squeaking sounds while breathing due to tight airways), weakness, fast heart beat, hives, and paleness. Report these or any other unusual signs immediately to your child's doctor.