All children and adults should be immunised against polio. See your practice nurse if you think that you are not fully immunised.
Polio (poliomyelitis) is a serious illness caused by the polio virus. The virus first infects the gut, but then travels to the nervous system and can cause a meningitis-like illness. This may leave permanent damage to some nerves. This can lead to wasting of some muscles and can sometimes cause paralysis of the arms or legs. The illness can seriously affect breathing in some people and may even lead to death. In 1955, before the introduction of polio immunisation, there were nearly 4,000 reported cases of polio in England and Wales. Polio is now very rare in the UK because of the success of immunisation.
The vaccine stimulates your body to make antibodies against the polio virus. These antibodies protect you from illness should you become infected with this virus.
The vaccine is safe to be given if you are pregnant or breast feeding.
Before 2004, the polio vaccine was given as drops into the mouth. It is now always given as an injection. If you have previously started a course of polio immunisation with oral vaccine you can finish off the course with polio injections. You do not need to start again.
All children are offered polio immunisation as part of the routine immunisation programme. A full course of polio immunisation consists of five doses of vaccine as follows:
|Children||Adults (who have not been immunised as a child)|
|Primary Course||Three doses of vaccine - as DTaP/IPV(polio)/Hib at two, three and four months of age.||Three doses of vaccine - as Td/IPV(polio), each one month apart.|
|4th dose||Three years after the primary course - as part of the DTaP/IPV(polio) pre-school booster at 3 years and four months to 5 years.||5 years after the primary course - as Td/IPV(polio).|
|5th dose||Aged 13-18 years - the school leaver booster - as Td/IPV(polio).||10 years after 4th dose - as Td/IPV(polio).|
The primary course of three injections gives good protection for a number of years. The fourth and fifth doses ('boosters') are needed in later years to maintain protection. After the fifth dose, immunity remains for life and you do not need any further boosters (apart from some travel situations - see 'Travellers', below).
Polio is not just a childhood illness, it can affect anyone. Children in the UK have been immunised against polio since 1958. If you were born before 1958 you may not have been immunised. All adults who are not immunised against polio should start by having the primary course of three polio vaccines at monthly intervals. Then have the booster doses as described above.
Polio is almost eradicated from much of the world, due to immunisation. However, it is still a problem in some regions, particularly Nigeria, Pakistan and India. Your GP or practice nurse can advise if your travel destination is an at-risk area for polio. If you are travelling to an at-risk area:
Their website - www.britishpolio.org.uk - includes information about polio immunisation.