What is Polio?

Polio, also goes by the name, Poliomyelitis and is a very infectious viral disease, which targets children under the age of five. The virus is transmitted from one person to another mainly through the faecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a much common vector such as contaminated water or food. The virus resides and multiplies in the intestine from where it can breach the nervous system and cause paralysis.


Initial symptoms of polio include fever, fatigue, headache, nausea, rigidity and pain in the limbs. In a small proportion of cases, the disease causes paralysis, which is often permanent. Polio is incurable and it can only be prevented by vaccination.


There are two ways to have your baby, vaccinated. Oral Polio Vaccination (OPV) or Injected Polio Vaccination (IPV). However in either case there are a total of 4 doses that are required to be taken. WHO recommends an OPV dose at birth (also called ‘zero dose’), trailed by the primary series of 3 OPV doses and at least 1 IPV dose. The vaccination procedure consisting of 3 OPV doses plus 1 IPV dose can be started from the age of 6 weeks with a minimum interval of 4 weeks between each of the OPV doses. If only 1 dose of IPV is used in the schedule, it should be given from 14 weeks of age when the maternal antibodies start declining.

OPV is inexpensive, easy to administer, and helps the baby procure excellent immunity in the intestine, since this is where the virus is present it helps prevent infection. It has been the vaccine of choice for controlling polio in many countries. On very rare occasions, the vaccine fails to prevent the disease, instead it triggers it.

Most big countries have decided on IPV, which cannot revert, either as the sole vaccine against polio or in combination with oral polio vaccine. However IPV is an option, more expensive and is not as readily available as OPV.

Whenever possible, Polio Vaccination and other live virus vaccines should be administered at least 1 month apart. The Polio Vaccination is to be administered in the timeline that these other important vaccines are given: hepatitis B vaccine, immune globulin, influenza vaccine, polysaccharide vaccines, and inactivated vaccines. However, administration of Polio Vaccination and cholera vaccine, typhoid vaccine, or plague vaccine within a span of less than 1 month may be linked with grave adverse reactions and should be averted at all costs.

If taken orally, your baby may cry and even complain of the bitter taste of the vaccine. On the other hand, the injection may cause fever and redness at the site of the shot. In some rare cases, your baby may even develop nausea which may be accompanied by an allergic reaction. Whatever may be the case, it is imperative that the vaccine doses are administered, without question. This is in the best interest of your baby.

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