Poliomyelitis (Polio) Vaccine Recommendations and Safety

Most people in the United States got the polio vaccine as children and do not need another vaccine in adulthood. Those adults who are at risk for polio infection should receive a booster dose. These adults include:

  • Those traveling to countries with high rates of the disease, such as Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Nigeria
  • Health care workers in contact with patients who may have polio virus
  • Members of groups that do not vaccinate and have had an outbreak of even a single case of polio, especially after traveling to at-risk areas
  • Lab workers handling specimens that may contain polio virus

Polio vaccine is safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Those who are at risk should get the vaccine because pregnancy makes them more likely to become ill if they get infected.

All current polio vaccines protect against all three types of the polio virus. The vaccine is given to high-risk adults in three doses on the following schedule:

  • First dose at anytime
  • Second dose 1–2 months later
  • Third dose 6–12 months following the second dose.


There are two types of vaccine that protect against polio: inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) and oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV). IPV is given as an injection in the leg or arm, depending on the patient's age. Polio vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines. Most people should get polio vaccine when they are children. Children get 4 doses of IPV at these ages: 2 months, 4 months, 6-18 months, and a booster dose at 4-6 years. OPV has not been used in the United States since 2000 but is still used in many parts of the world.

A person is considered to be fully immunized if he or she has received a primary series of at least three doses of inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV), live oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV), or four doses of any combination of IPV and OPV. Until recently, the benefits of OPV use (i.e. intestinal immunity, secondary spread) outweighed the risk for vaccine-associated paralytic poliomyelitis (VAPP) which occurred in one child out of every 2.4 million OPV doses distributed. To eliminate the risk of vaccine-associated paralytic poliomyelitis (VAPP), as of January 1, 2000, OPV was no longer recommended for routine immunization in the United States. However, OPV continues to be used in the countries where polio is endemic or the risk of importation and transmission is high. OPV is recommended for global polio eradication activities in polio-endemic countries due to its advantages over IPV in providing intestinal immunity and providing secondary spread of the vaccine to unprotected contacts. (http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/polio/default.htm)

As with all vaccines, there can be minor reactions, including pain and redness at the injection site, headache, fatigue or a vague feeling of discomfort.

Some people should not get IPV or should wait.

These people should not get IPV:

  • Anyone with a life-threatening allergy to any component of IPV, including the antibiotics neomycin, streptomycin or polymyxin B, should not get polio vaccine. Tell your doctor if you have any severe allergies.
  • Anyone who has a severe allergic reaction to a polio shot should not get another one.

These people should wait:

  • Anyone who is moderately or severely ill at the time the shot is scheduled should usually wait until they recover before getting polio vaccine. People with minor illnesses, such as a cold, may be vaccinated.

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/polio/hcp/index.html

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