Polio Vaccine


Polio was a worldwide disease in the early 1900s, paralyzing hundreds of thousands of people each year. Two effective vaccines against the disease had been developed by 1950. However, vaccination was still not widespread enough in some parts of the world to prevent the spread of polio, particularly in Africa. In the 1980s, a global effort to eliminate polio began. Polio vaccination has taken place on all continents over many years and decades, using routine immunization visits and mass vaccination campaigns. Millions of people, mostly children, have been immunized, and the African continent has been certified wild poliovirus free in August 2020, joining the rest of the world except Pakistan and Afghanistan, where polio has not yet been wiped out.

Humans have successfully developed vaccines for a variety of life-threatening diseases throughout history, such as meningitis, tetanus, measles, and wild poliovirus.

Who Should Get Vaccinated


Children in the United States should receive inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) as part of routine childhood immunization to protect against poliomyelitis. In total, they should receive four doses:

  • 2 months of age
  • 4 months of age
  • 6 - 18 months of age
  • 4 - 6 years of age

Children who have not begun their polio vaccine series or who have not received all recommended doses should begin as soon as possible or complete their series by following the advised catch-up schedule. Especially if the family is planning to travel abroad.


Because they were vaccinated as children, most adults do not require polio vaccine. However, three groups of adults are more vulnerable and should consider polio vaccination:

  • People who travel to places where polio is common.
  • Workers in laboratories who may come into contact with the polio virus.
  • Health-care workers who are treating patients who may have polio.

Adults in these three groups who have never received polio vaccination should receive three doses of IPV:


  • The first dose can be taken at any time.
  • The second dose should be given one to two months later.
  • The third dose is administered 6 to 12 months after the second.

Adults who are fully vaccinated and intend to travel to countries with a higher risk of poliovirus exposure may receive a single lifetime booster dose of IPV.

Who Should Not Get Vaccinated

  • Anyone who has ever had a potentially fatal allergic reaction to the antibiotics; neomycin, streptomycin, or polymyxin B should avoid receiving the polio vaccine.
  • Anyone who has a serious allergic reaction to a polio vaccine should not receive another.

Anyone who is moderately or severely ill at the time of the shot should usually wait until they recover before receiving the polio vaccine. Minor illnesses, such as the common cold, may be vaccinated.

More information can be obtained from your healthcare provider.

Two Types of Polio Vaccine

There are two types of polio vaccine: IPV, which is the shot currently recommended in the United States, and a live, oral polio vaccine (OPV), which is given as mouth drops.

  • Inactivated Poliovirus Vaccine
  • Because IPV is not a 'live' vaccine, it does not pose a risk of VAPP.
  • Most people have a strong protective immune response to IPV.


  • Oral Poliovirus Vaccine
  • In the United States, this vaccine is no longer licensed or available.
  • It is still widely used all around the globe.
  • The vaccine is administered to children via drops in the mouth.

Possible Side Effects of IPV

Just like any vaccines, IPV can cause some possible side effects, but it is just mild and not life-threatening. IPV is not known to cause serious problems, and most people have no issues with it.

Here are some side effects to expect after the shot:

  • Redness or soreness on the injected area.
  • Nauseous
  • Shoulder pain (on the injected side)

How effective is it?

People can get 90% protection against paralytic polio after two doses, and 99% to 100% after three doses.

It is unknown how long people who received IPV will be protected against polio, but they will most likely be protected for many years following a full series of IPV. A national survey conducted in 2009-2010 found that a high percentage of children and adults had protective antibodies against poliovirus, including adults who had received the oral polio vaccine (OPV) as children decades before. Adults who received their polio vaccination series as children and are at higher risk of polio exposure, on the other hand, can receive one lifetime IPV booster.