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Vaccines to Prevent Polio

  • IPV: Inactivated Polio vaccine (used in the U.S. since 2000) (Spanish)
  • OPV: Oral Polio vaccine (commonly used outside the U.S.) (Spanish)
Vaccine Basics

Polio used to be very common in the U.S. and caused severe illness in thousands of people each year before polio vaccine was introduced in 1955. Most people infected with the polio virus have no symptoms, however for the less than one percent who develop paralysis (cannot move arms or legs) it may result in permanent disability and even death.

There are two types of vaccine that protect against polio: Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) and Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV). IPV, used in the U.S. since 2000, is given as an injection in the leg or arm, depending on age. OPV is taken by mouth. Polio vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines.

For Children

Most people should get polio vaccine when they are children.

Children should be vaccinated with four doses of inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) at the following ages:

  • A dose at 2 months
  • A dose at 4 months
  • A dose at 6-18 months
  • A booster dose at 4-6 years

For Adults

Most adults do not need polio vaccine because they were already vaccinated as children. But three groups of adults are at higher risk and should consider polio vaccination in the following situations:

  • You are traveling to polio-endemic or high-risk areas of the world. Ask your healthcare provider for specific information on whether you need to be vaccinated.
  • You are working in a laboratory and handling specimens that might contain polioviruses
  • You are a healthcare worker treating patients who could have polio or have close contact with a person who could be infected with poliovirus

Adults in these three groups who have never been vaccinated against polio should get three doses of IPV:

  • The first dose at any time
  • The second dose 1 to 2 months later
  • The third dose 6 to 12 months after the second

Adults in these three groups who have had one or two doses of polio vaccine in the past should get the remaining one or two doses. It doesn’t matter how long it has been since the earlier dose(s).

About Polio

What is Polio?

Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus that invades the nervous system. Polio is an infectious disease caused by a virus that lives in the throat and intestinal tract. It is most often spread through person-to-person contact with the stool of an infected person and may also be spread through oral/nasal secretions (such as saliva).

Less than one percent of polio cases result in permanent paralysis of the limbs (usually the legs). Of those paralyzed, five to ten percent die when the paralysis strikes the respiratory muscles. Paralysis can lead to permanent disability and death.

Who gets Polio?

Polio, or poliomyelitis, can strike at any age. Thanks to effective vaccine, the United States has been polio-free since 1979. But poliovirus still occurs in a few countries in Asia and Africa. In the late 1940s to the early 1950s, polio crippled an average of over 35,000 people in the United States each year; it was one of the most feared diseases of the twentieth century. Thanks to the polio vaccine, dedicated health care professionals, and parents who vaccinate their children on schedule, polio has been eliminated in this country for over 30 years.

Maintaining the success rate of U.S. vaccination efforts is crucial since the disease still occurs in some parts of the world. People most at risk are those who never had polio vaccine, those who never received all the recommended vaccine doses, and those traveling to areas where polio is still common.

 

Up to 95 percent of persons infected with polio will have no symptoms. About four to eight percent of infected persons have minor symptoms such as:

  •  Fever
  •  Fatigue
  •  Nausea
  •  Headache
  •  Flu-like symptoms
  •  Stiffness in the neck and back
  •  Pain in the limbs, which often resolves completely 
 
Take Action

Ready to get vaccinated?

 
 

Microscopic view of polio.

 

Read more about the polio vaccine:

Going to get vaccinated:

Travel:

  • Polio is more common in some countries than others. Find out if you should be vaccinated before you travel abroad.