Do adults need polio vaccine if they received the vaccine as a child?

When news broke late last week that polio, a crippling and life-threatening disease, had been discovered in New York, people were shocked. According to a joint news release from the New York State Department of Health and the Rockland County Health Department, an unvaccinated person in Rockland County contracted the virus from a person who received oral polio vaccine (OPV). As a result, he developed an infection called vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV).

The vaccine-derived poliovirus is different from the wild poliovirus that caused widespread panic in the United States in the 1940s. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccine-derived poliovirus is a weakened strain of poliovirus that was originally included in the oral poliovirus vaccine.

People immunized with the oral poliovirus vaccine can excrete it in their feces or respiratory tract (when they cough and sneeze) and spread it to other people that way, the CDC explains — and that’s what happened in this case. That’s why the US stopped using the oral vaccine in 2000 and now uses an inactivated poliovirus vaccine — it doesn’t contain a live version of the virus.

“Based on this case and what we know about polio in general, the Department of Health recommends that unvaccinated people get vaccinated as soon as possible or receive a booster with the FDA-approved IPV vaccine.” State Health Commissioner Mary T. Bassett, MD, MPH, said in a press release. “The polio vaccine is safe and effective in protecting against this potentially debilitating disease, and it is a key part of the required childhood immunizations recommended by health officials and national health agencies.”

If you didn’t get the polio vaccine as a child, it makes sense to get it, but do adults need the polio vaccine? Do you need polio vaccine if you travel? Here’s what infectious disease experts say.

So, do you need polio vaccine?

Here’s a quick reminder: the polio vaccine is part of the routine childhood immunizations. The CDC recommends that children receive four doses of the polio vaccine — at 2 months, 4 months, 6 to 18 months, and 4 to 6 years. If you’ve had it as a child, you’ve probably been fully vaccinated against polio, says William Schaffner, M.D., an infectious disease specialist and professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

That said, polio boosters are one thing. According to the CDC, adults who are “at high risk for polio” and have previously completed the polio vaccination series can receive one lifetime booster dose of the polio vaccine.

So who needs a booster shot? The CDC considers the following adults to need help for polio:

  • People traveling to a country with a high risk of poliomyelitis.
  • People who work in a laboratory and use samples that may contain poliovirus.
  • Health care workers who treat patients who have polio or have been in close contact with someone who may have contracted polio.

“Most people don’t need the polio vaccine because they got the polio vaccine when they were young,” says Dr. Schaffner says. “Generally speaking, the United States is polio-free and most of the world is polio-free, so people don’t need a booster.”

Richard Watkins, MD, is an infectious disease physician and professor of internal medicine at Northeast Ohio Medical University. For most people, “you get a shot as a kid and that’s it,” he says.

However, if you’re traveling to an area of ​​the world where wild polio is endemic, you may want to consider a polio vaccine, says Amesh A. It lists Yemen, Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Ukraine, Pakistan and Afghanistan as countries where polio is still spreading.

How to know if you have received the polio vaccine

It’s been a minute since you got your childhood vaccinations, and if you’re still not going to the same doctor you did when you were a child, they may not actually believe that you were vaccinated against polio as a child. However, Dr. According to Schaffner, there’s a very good chance you’ve gotten your shot.

“If you didn’t have an education by now, you probably wouldn’t be able to go to school,” he says. “Most schools in the US have a ‘no shots, no schools’ policy when it comes to polio.”

If you’re not sure where you stand, it’s best to get a booster. “No risk of getting extra shots” Dr. Adalja says. However, he adds, “most patients’ primary care physicians have polio vaccination records.”

What is polio again?

Polio, according to the CDC, is a disabling and life-threatening disease caused by polio. In some cases, the virus can enter a person’s spinal cord and cause paralysis.

In the late 1940s, an outbreak of polio in the United States crippled more than 35,000 Americans a year, according to the CDC. However, the country has been polio-free since 1979 thanks to a successful vaccination campaign.

How is polio transmitted?

Polio is spread from person to person through infected person’s feces or droplets from coughing or sneezing, the CDC explains. Once a person is infected, the disease can spread before symptoms appear.

What are the symptoms of poliomyelitis?

Most people with polio have no visible symptoms, the CDC says, but about 25% develop flu-like symptoms. They may include:

  • sore throat
  • don’t hesitate
  • to be tired
  • nausea
  • A headache
  • stomach ailment

Fewer than 1% of people with polio develop serious complications that affect the brain and spinal cord. They may include:

  • Paresthesia (feeling of pins and needles in the legs)
  • Meningitis (infection of the spinal cord and/or meninges)
  • Paralysis (inability to move parts of the body)

Again, Dr. Schaffner emphasized that polio cases are rare in New York. “It’s a very unusual case, and it’s limited to a conservative religious group that hasn’t been vaccinated,” he says. “There is no risk of spread to the general population.”

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