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. Of those persons that do acquire the infection, 2 percent or fewer may develop paralytic disease. Since the advent of the polio vaccine during the early 1950s, infections from the poliovirus have nearly been eradicated.
Today, polio is extremely rare in the United States because of the use of the vaccine. However, it is still common in other countries, so all children need to be immunized for protection from the disease. The type of polio vaccine recommended in the US 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.
IPV is given to babies and children in four doses at ages:
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 physician regarding vaccines.
- 2 months
- 4 months
- between 6 to 18 months
- 4 to 6 years
- 7 to 18 years, may catch-up as needed
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.
- Give your child aspirin-free pain reliever, as directed by your child's physician.
- 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 physician.
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