Polio used to be common in the United States. Before the polio vaccine, the disease killed thousands of people every year. Thanks to the polio vaccine, there hasn’t been a new case of polio in the United States in over 35 years.
Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent polio.
- Why is the polio vaccine important?
Polio is a very contagious disease — it spreads easily from person to person. Most people who get polio don’t have any serious problems. But in some cases, polio can be very dangerous and lead to permanent disabilities — and even death.
Even though it’s rare in the United States, polio still exists in a few countries in Asia and Africa. So it’s possible for people to get polio when they travel — and spread it to people who aren’t vaccinated when they come home.
When you and your family get vaccinated, you’re doing your part to make sure that polio doesn’t become a problem in the United States again.
- What is polio?
Polio is caused by a virus. Most people who get polio don’t have any symptoms. When people do get symptoms, they may include:
- Sore throat
- Upset stomach
- Stomach pain
Sometimes polio can affect the brain, and lead to serious — and permanent — complications like:
- Paresthesia (feeling pins and needles)
- Inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord
- Paralysis (not being able to move)
Polio usually spreads when someone gets certain body fluids or poop from a person with polio on their hands and then touches their own mouth. Polio spreads when:
- Someone who has polio coughs or sneezes
- Someone who has polio doesn’t wash their hands properly after going to the bathroom and then touches food or objects
- Who needs to get the polio vaccine?
All children need to get the polio vaccine — and some adults may need it, too.
Infants and children
All children need 4 doses of the polio vaccine as part of their routine vaccine schedule.
Children need doses at the following ages:
- 2 months for the first dose
- 4 months for the second dose
- 6 through 18 months for the third dose
- 4 through 6 years for the fourth dose
Some adults who are at higher risk of getting polio may need 1 to 3 doses of the polio vaccine, depending on whether they’ve been vaccinated in the past. You may need to get the polio vaccine if you:
- Are traveling to countries where polio is spreading
- Study polio in a lab
- Are a health care professional who works with people who could have polio
Talk with your doctor about how to protect your family from polio.
- Who should not get the polio vaccine?
Some people should not get the polio vaccine — or may need to wait to get it. Be sure to tell your doctor before getting vaccinated if you:
- Have had a life-threatening allergic reaction to the polio vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine
- Have any serious allergies
- Are sick
- What are the side effects of the polio vaccine?
Side effects are usually mild and go away in a few days. The most common side effect people have is a sore spot where they got the shot.
Like any medicine, there’s a very small chance that the polio vaccine could cause a serious reaction. Keep in mind that getting the polio vaccine is much safer than getting polio. Learn more about vaccine side effects.
- Where can I get more information about the polio vaccine?
Vaccine Information Statements (VISs) have detailed information about recommended vaccines.