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Discussion about Polio and Vacccination Against It

What is Polio? Poliomyelitis is a disease caused by polio virus that destroys nerves in the spinal cord, leading to muscle wasting & paralysis. Patients can have fever, tiredness, headache, vomiting, pain in the limbs, and 1 in 200 infections can cause paralysis that is permanent. How many people are affected by polio? In 1988, there were 350,000 people affected by polio. In 2017, only 22 cases were reported. Over the years over 16 million people have been saved from paralysis, thanks to immunisation. What is World Polio Day? World Polio Day is celebrated every year on the 24th of October by raising awareness on vaccination, with a goal to ensure every last child is vaccinated, so that we can make the world polio free. The theme for 2018 is End Polio Now. It also celebrates the contribution of Jonas Salk who developed the first vaccine for polio, and the efforts of millions of volunteers committed to the cause. But India is polio-free right...? Yes, India has been declared polio free in January 2011. But there are places in Afghanistan, Pakistan & Nigeria that are still reporting cases. It would only take one person infected with polio coming from another country to bring the disease back here if we were not protected by vaccination. If we do not eradicate polio, there can be 200,000 new cases every year within 10 years. If the effort to eliminate the disease from the world is successful, some day we won't need polio vaccine. Until then, we need to keep getting our children vaccinated. Recently I heard about some contamination of Oral Polio vaccine (OPV)? There was an issue with a company having made the vaccine with 3 strains of viruses instead of 2 strains, which is in effect from April 2016. But the population immunity against the type of virus that was found in stool samples of those immunised in Uttar Pradesh with that vaccine is very good, and hence will not cause any harm even if it spreads in the community, which is extremely unlikely. The Government has stopped supply of that particular vaccine, and there is no need to panic. It is safe to vaccinate your child with both injectable polio vaccine (IPV) and OPV Any precautions I must take before getting my child vaccinated? If your child has an allergy to the antibiotics neomycin, streptomycin or polymyxin B, or to a previous polio shot, they should not get the injectable polio vaccine. Those with high fever can wait till the end of illness to get the vaccine. Children with minor illnesses, such as a cold, may be vaccinated. Together, let us pledge to protect our children from this terrible disease that is easily preventable, by giving them vaccines correctly!

Dr. Vaishnavi Chandramohan

Consultant, Pediatrics & Infectious Diseases Rainbow Children’s Hospital

Marathahalli, Bengaluru