Polio (Inactivated Polio Vaccine; IPV)

What is polio?

Poliomyelitis, or polio, is a highly contagious infectious disease caused by 3 types of poliovirus. The poliovirus is a virus known to destroy the nervous system causing paralysis. Most people who are infected with polio, however, have no symptoms and few have mild symptoms. The CDC says, of those who do get the infection, 1% or fewer may get paralysis. Since the advent of the polio vaccine during the early 1950s, and a global effort to wipe out the disease, polio has nearly been eliminated. However, there have been outbreaks of polio spreading from the few countries where the disease still exists. These countries are Pakistan, Cameroon, Nigeria, Syria, Afghanistan, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Israel, and Somalia.

What polio vaccine is recommended in the U.S.? 

Today, polio is very rare in the U.S. because of the use of the vaccine. But, it still occurs in the countries mentioned above. Due to more travel between countries, all children need to be immunized for protection from the disease. The type of polio vaccine recommended in the U.S. is called inactivated polio vaccine (IPV). This is an inactivated (killed) form of the virus given through injection. It provides a very safe way to give immunity to polio. Another form called oral polio vaccine (OPV) was given in years past. But the OPV was a live-form of the virus and had a small risk of causing polio. OPV is still given in other countries because it is more effective than IPV in preventing the spread of polio.

When is IPV given?

IPV is given to babies and children in 4 doses at ages:

  • 2 months

  • 4 months

  • Between 6 to 18 months

  • 4 to 6 years

  • "Catch-up doses" may be given to older children and adults, if needed. 

Persons of any age going to countries where polio is still active, and staying for more than 4 weeks, should get age-appropriate polio vaccines or a polio booster within 12 months before travel.

Children who are sick or have a fever should wait until they are well to get the polio vaccine. Some children should not get IPV. These include those who have ever had an allergic reaction to the antibiotic neomycin, streptomycin, or polymyxin B, and those who have had a previous reaction to the polio vaccine. Always see your child's healthcare provider about vaccines.

What are the risks from IPV?

A vaccine, like any medicine, is capable of causing serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. But, the IPV is very safe and most people have no problems other than muscle soreness at the site where the shot was given.

How do I care for my child after immunization with IPV?

  • Give your child aspirin-free pain reliever, as directed by your child's healthcare provider. Do not give aspirin.

  • An allergic reaction would most likely occur within a few minutes to a few hours of the shot. Signs may include trouble breathing, swelling of the face and throat, wheezing, (squeaking sounds while breathing due to tight airways), weakness, rapid heartbeat, hives, feeling dizzy, and paleness. Report these or any other unusual signs immediately to your child's healthcare provider.