How can polio be prevented?

The poliovirus has been eradicated in the United States since 1979, thanks to the use of effective vaccines; however, polio still remains a problem in some parts of the world.

The polio vaccine is safe and highly effective in protecting children from polio. About 99 out of 100 children who are fully vaccinated will not get polio.

There are 2 types of polio vaccine that are currently available. Only the inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) is used in the United States. The other type, the oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV), is used throughout some other parts of the world.

The IPV is given as an injection in the arm or leg. Sometimes it is administered along with other vaccines.

Children should receive 4 doses of the polio vaccine, according to the following vaccination schedule.

First dose: 2 months of age

Second dose: 4 months

Third dose: 6 to 18 months

Booster dose: 4 to 6 years

Children who will be traveling to other parts of the world where polio cases have been reported during the previous year should be fully vaccinated before they travel. This might require an accelerated vaccination timetable so all of their injections are given before they travel to high-risk locations.

Some adults might not have been fully vaccinated against polio when they were children. In these cases, it is recommended that they receive 3 doses of the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV).

The first dose may be given at any time, followed by a second dose 1 to 2 months later. The final dose should be given within 6 to 12 months after the second dose.

Adults who have already received 1 or 2 doses of the vaccine should get the remaining injection(s) at some point in their lives.

Adults who are at higher risk of becoming infected with polio include those who:

  • Travel to regions where polio outbreaks still occur.
  • Work in laboratories where they might handle specimens that contain poliovirus.
  • Work with patients who may have polio or who might have been exposed to other people who are infected with polio.

Adults at high risk of exposure to polio may receive one booster shot during their lives.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website posts travel health notices with information about areas where polio cases have recently been reported.

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