Polio Immunisation

A dose of polio vaccine is given to babies at aged two, three and four months (the primary course). Three years later a 'pre-school booster' of polio is given. 10 years after that a 'school leaver booster' of polio is given.

What is polio ?

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 can sometimes leave permanent damage to some nerves. This can lead to wasting of muscles and sometimes paralysis of one or more of the limbs. The illness can seriously affect breathing in some people and may lead to death.

In 1955, before the introduction of polio immunisation, there were nearly 4,000 reported cases of polio in England and Wales. As a result of immunisation it is now rare in the UK.

Immunisation timetable for polio

Polio immunisation is not an injection. A few drops are placed onto the tongue which are swallowed.

No further boosters are required if you live in the UK, unless travelling to 'at risk' countries.

Some possible problems with polio immunisation Adults - are you immunised?

Polio is not just a childhood illness, it can affect anyone. Children have been immunised against polio since 1958. If you were born before 1958 you may not have been immunised. All adults who are not already immunised against polio are recommended to receive the primary course of three polio vaccines at monthly intervals.

At particular risk are older people who handle recently immunised babies (for example, grandparents). There is a slight risk that a baby who has recently been given the polio vaccine can then pass it out in their faeces (stools). This virus vaccine can then become 'activated' and infect adults who have not previously been immunised. Particles can be passed out of the baby in their faeces for up to six weeks after immunisation. People changing babies nappies should take care to wash their hands afterwards.

If there is doubt about your immunisation status there is no harm in taking an extra dose of polio vaccine.

Further information

Information on immunisation from the NHS aimed at the general public - www.immunisation.org.uk

Immunisation Against Infectious Disease (The Green Book) - www.doh.gov.uk/greenbook/
From the Department of Health. Aimed at health professionals but of interest to all.

© EMIS and PIP 2004   Updated February 2004   PRODIGY Validated