Thanks to effective vaccine, the United States has been polio-free since 1979. But poliovirus is still a threat in some countries. Be part of the success story and get your child vaccinated on schedule. Polio, or poliomyelitis, is an infectious viral disease that can strike at any age and affects a person's nervous system. In the late 1940s to the early 1950s, polio crippled an average of more than 35,000 people in the United States each year; it was one of the most feared diseases of the 20th century. And due to the polio vaccine, dedicated healthcare professionals, and parents who vaccinate their children on schedule, polio has been eliminated in this country for more than 30 years.
IPV: A Safe Vaccine
Thanks to the dedicated work of healthcare professionals like Dr. Jonas Salk, who developed the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) in the early 1950s, and Dr. Albert Sabin, who developed the oral polio vaccine (OPV) in the early 1960s, the United States has been polio-free for more than 30 years. OPV is no longer used in the United States but is used in vaccination programs of some countries around the world. Since 2000, the only polio vaccine recommended and used in the United States is IPV. Because it is an inactivated, or killed, vaccine, it cannot cause polio.
It is crucial to maintain the success rate of U.S. vaccination efforts since the disease still exists 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 that could put them at risk for getting polio.
The Childhood Polio Vaccination Schedule
For best protection, children should get four doses of polio vaccine. This vaccine is given as a shot in the arm or leg and is extremely safe. Ideally, your child should receive a dose at ages: 2 months, 4 months and 6 through 18 months, then a booster dose at age 4 through 6 years.
Inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) may sometimes be given in the same shot with other vaccines (in other words, in a combination vaccine), so discuss this option with your child's doctor. Getting the recommended doses of the polio vaccine is an extremely important part of keeping the United States polio-free.
For information about adults who may not have received sufficient vaccine protection, see the adult polio vaccination schedule.
Most health insurance plans cover the cost of vaccines. However, you may want to check with your insurance provider before going to the doctor. If you don't have health insurance, or if your insurance doesn't cover vaccines for your child, the Vaccines for Children Program may be able to help. This program helps families of eligible children who might not otherwise have access to vaccines. To find out if your child is eligible, visit the VFC website or ask your child's doctor.
Traveling to Another Country?
Polio has been eliminated from most of the world, but the disease still exists in a few countries in Asia and Africa. Even if you were previously vaccinated, you may need a one-time booster shot before you travel anywhere that could put you at risk for getting polio. A booster is an additional dose of vaccine to ensure the original vaccine series remains effective.
Make sure you get your travel vaccination(s) well before your departure date to ensure complete protection. See your healthcare professional for more information.