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POLIO VACCINE - a patient's guide


The polio vaccine protects against polio which still occurs in some parts of the world. The vaccine is recommended as part of the childhood immunisation schedule. This article profiles the vaccine and its rare side effects.

polio vacc


There are two types of polio vaccine

1-Oral(OPV) (given in a sip ):This is a live attenuated vaccine and has been widely used around the world and in New-Zealand until 2002 and has helped eradicate polio . In extremely rare cases (1 in 6.8 million doses in healthy people) it can cause polio, by being altered back into the active virus on its way through the bowel.

This risk is higher after the first dose (1 in 760 000) and in people with impaired immunity (1 in 3000 to 7000)

2-An injected Inactivated polio vaccine injection(IPV).

This is a totally inactivated vaccine and can NEVER cause polio and is now advised for all polio vaccinations(in New-Zealand). The disadvantage is that it is an injection and also it may not stop someone from carrying the virus (and passing it on to unimmunised people).

What is it?

The polio vaccine protects against polio and is now given in New-Zealand as an injection (IPV)

The oral vaccine may be the recommended choice in other parts of the world.

The polio vaccine is highly effective. Three doses are probably all that is needed to remain immune for life.

The injected form (IPV) is made from a killed virus and can Never cause polio.

The oral vaccine (OPV) is made from an attenuated virus . In extremely rare cases has caused polio after "reactivation " in the bowel.

Naturally occurring polio has been eradicated from New Zealand but immunisation is necessary to stop people catching the disease when traveling to countries where polio exists and then passing it to others on their return.

Until polio is eradicated from the world, immunisation is still necessary.

What are the side effects?

It may be hard to tell if these are due to the vaccine or other vaccines given at the same time.

The side effects of the injected vaccine(IPV) include local reactions,crying,sleepiness and fever .

The following comments apply to the oral vaccine(OPV)

 A few people suffer headaches and muscle aches or diarrhoea that may be caused by the vaccine.

One in 6.7 million doses of the oral vaccine will cause paralysis of the muscles. This occurs in about one in every 400,000 to 700,000 children after their first dose. Adults are at slightly higher risk. This side effect does not occur with injected polio vaccine.

The vaccine can also pass the virus on to people who have not been immunised because the virus is excreted in stools for up to eight weeks following vaccination.

When should the vaccine be given?

The vaccine is given at six weeks, three months and five months and 4-5 years. A further dose is recommended at 11 years.

A booster dose is also recommended if you are traveling to part of the world where polio is prevalent, and you have not had a dose for 10 years.

Adults should consider having the polio injection(IPV) because adults have a slightly higher risk of developing paralysis following the polio sip. Unimmunised adults should be vaccinated before their baby is.

Those living with people with weak immune systems such as cancer patients having chemotherapy, should also have the polio injection instead of the sip.

Getting help

Your doctor, practice nurse or Plunket nurse will be able to help.

The Immunisation Advisory Centre, Auckland. Ph 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863)

 *This information was provided by the New Zealand Immunisation Advisory Centre.

See also:

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