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polio immunisation

Alternative Names
polio vaccination

A vaccine is an injection or oral solution given to protect a person against a life-threatening disease. There are two types of polio vaccines. Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) is delivered in an injection form. Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) is delivered through drops that are swallowed. The OPV is a live vaccine. and is the most common means of delivering the vaccine in Australia.

Who is a candidate for the procedure?
Any child who has not been vaccinated against polio is a candidate for polio immunisation. Poliomyelitis, or polio, is an infection of the nervous system that may cause severe muscle weakness, paralysis, and even death.

How is the procedure performed?
Most children should receive five doses of the polio vaccine. It is recommended that children receive the following: OPV at 2, 4 and 6 months of age. This is topped off by a forth dose at 18 months and a fifth dose at 5 years of age.

What happens right after the procedure?
Most children who are immunized will not get polio. Once everyone in the world has been vaccinated, polio will disappear. No one will need the polio vaccine. Until that happens, children need to be vaccinated.

What happens later at home?
Unless there are complications, there is no need for home care.

What are the potential complications after the procedure?
Most people have no problem after receiving IPV or OPV. There is a very small risk when a child receives OPV. About 1 in every 2.4 million doses of OPV will cause polio. The risk is higher with the first dose. Some children should only get IPV, or the vaccine through injections. This may be the case if the child:
  • cannot fight off infections
  • receives long-term steroid treatment
  • has cancer, acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • has a caretaker who has never been vaccinated against polio
A child who is allergic to the medications neomycin, streptomycin, or polymyxin B can only receive OPV. If the child has had a serious reaction to a previous polio vaccination or has a moderate to severe illness, the vaccinations may need to be delayed or avoided.

Like any medication, these vaccines have a small risk of severe allergic reaction including hives, difficulty breathing, or even death.

Overall, the risk from complications of polio outweighs the risks from the vaccine. Unless there are known complications, children should receive the polio vaccine.

Author: Terry Mason, MPH
Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia
Last Updated: 1/10/2001
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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