FAQs: Polio Vaccine for Babies

1. What is Polio?

It is an infectious virus that resides in throat and tract of the intestines that causes the disease called Poliomyelitis or Polio, as it is commonly known as. It is also called infantile paralysis.

2. What are the symptoms of polio?

Almost 90-95% of the infections do not show symptoms. Such cases can be termed as sub clinical type of polio.
The rest of the 5-10% infections show minor symptoms like fever, headache, diarrhea, vomiting, stiff neck and painful limbs. However, in such cases, the patient will be alright in 1-2 weeks. It can be termed as non-paralytic type of polio.
In about 0.5% instances, the symptom will be muscle weakness resulting in disabled movement. It can occur over a period of few hours up to few days. The rarest and severest form of polio, which results in full/partial paralysis.
There are 3 types of paralytic polio- Spine Polio, Bulbar Polio or Bulbospinal Polio.
In cases of muscle weakness, nearly 2-5% of children and nearly 15-20% of adults pass away.
Polio is such a virus that spreads from individual to individual through infected feces. Additionally it may also spread through food and water infected by human feces.
Children below 5 years of age are more likely to contract the infection. Pregnant women, persons with weak immunity, especially who are HIV+ are more likely to contract polio virus.
The risk increases when:
– One has been at or traveled to such an area where there is an outbreak of polio or rapidly increased polio cases.
– One is looking after and living with infected patient.
– One has his/ her tonsils operated and removed.
– One is investigating infected sample at laboratory.
– One has a weakened immune system.
Post Polio syndrome is one complication that can occur even after the patient has already recovered from Polio. The chances are that it can happen up to 35 years of age after the primary infection.

3. How is polio diagnosed?

Reported symptoms will help doctors to determine whether one has polio or not. A clinical diagnosis will require samples from patient’s throat secretion, stool or cerebrospinal fluid.
Unfortunately polio cannot be cured, but thanks to the invention of vaccination, effective eradication of fatal cases and disabilities due to polio have occurred.
Very rarely, the vaccination might result into the following allergic reactions that are mild or severe:
– Difficulty in breathing
– Fever
– Faster heartbeat
– Swollen throat
– Dizziness

4. When should the polio vaccine be administered?

Polio vaccine has to be administered right from the first year of a newborn’s life. Every child has to receive at least 3 doses of OPV or Oral Polio Vaccine from birth.
Since OPV is not sufficient measure of prevention of polio, a child is considered fully vaccinated when they have been received a minimum of 3 doses of Oral Polio Virus vaccine, minimum 3 shots of Inactivated Polio Virus vaccine or a total 4 doses of any combinations IPV/OPV.

5. What are the types of polio vaccines? What is the difference between IPV and OPV?

OPV or Oral polio virus is a live and weak form of polio virus that will produce antibodies against it and not develop into disease in the body. When OPV is received, it works by spreading through sewage system, water supply, food and water and eventually spreads protection.
IPV, Inactivated polio virus vaccine protects the vaccinated body against Polio. It contains dead form of virus that keeps the disease at bay. It does not act to spread protection through antibodies unlike OPV. This vaccine is highly effective and mandate too for its excellent protection for an individual.
In rarest of the rare cases, a person may contract the disease called vaccine induced paralysis. That is the reason why IPV is must.
In India, government runs a Pulse Polio programme to eradicate polio from the country with campaigns like “2 boond zindagi ki”. Every child under the age of 5 is provided OPV drops on special immunization days.
Your child can safely be given multiple doses of OPV although he/she has already received required doses of the OPV drops. The good about it is the ease of oral administration. The pulse polio programme is meant to eradicate the disease and create a polio free nation. There is no harm or side effect caused.

6. Why is polio vaccine given repeatedly?

Children below the age 5 are more suspected to the disease as compared to other age groups. This vaccine is given repeatedly to eradicate the life challenging condition. Giving it frequently make the capacity to resist the disease.

7. How about routine immunisations?

There are separate vaccines for each of the disease. Polio vaccine only prevents the vaccinated person from polio. Other vaccines have to be followed as per schedule.

8. Are there chances of polio even after getting all vaccines at Pulse Polio campaigns and at vaccination centers?

The polio vaccine has been successfully playing a role to eradicate the disease completely. The chances of disease occurrence are negligible when a child is immunized as per proper dosage under the age of 5. Very rarely might a few children be unable to develop immunity against the disease due to some reasons. Those reasons include chronic diarrhea and malnutrition.

9. I missed attending the polio pulse campaign for my baby. What to do now?

Chances are considerably low that one doesn’t get to know about a polio vaccine campaign. Although if you missed it, the volunteers drop by your place to administer the dose (This will happen provided your child’s birth registry is complete). If not, you may immediately rush to your vaccination center and communicate the same with the expert.

10. Why should I participate in pulse polio programme?

The programme was started in 1995 for eradication of polio in the country. It is an initiative to eliminate the risks relating to polio disease and totally eliminate the spread of wild polio virus with repeated doses each year. Around 172 million children under 5 are immunized on a National Immunisation Day every time.

11. Can OPV be administered to new born children?

The vaccine has been used for years safely. It may be given to new borns. Even to the new born babies who were born just a few hours ago.

12. My child is down with fever/diarrhea/other. Can OPV be given?

The OPV vaccine generally does not cause any reactions if given with other medicines. They can be safely administered even when a baby is ill. But IPV is postponed if the child is not keeping well.

13. How can I judge if the vaccine given is right?

OPV vaccine drops are usually pink in color. However, the color can also be white or yellow at times. It doesn’t mean the quality or the type is inferior/duplicate. In order to be sure, make sure you get the polio medication administered by a registered health care practitioner or a reliable source.

14. Has the vaccine to be administered empty stomach? Can my child eat and drink after the dose?

There are no conditions like that associated with administration of Polio Vaccine. Doctors’ advice you to give the child food half an hour before the administration of OPV to reduce the chances of the medicine not being absorbed properly by the child in case he/ she vomits.

15. Why should the polio immunization be given now that Polio is no more a case in India?

The disease can be transmitted when people from other countries where this disease is still not yet eradicated visit India. Polio is still a case in many countries, so the risk of the disease exists. It is always better to be safe and vaccinate children till the time the disease is eradicated across the globe.

16. How do I come to know about running campaign?

We can see ads on television/newspapers and banners irrespective of which area you are in. You can always have your friends and relatives with kids to pass on the information as and when volunteers set up the campaign.

17. Does polio vaccine cause impotency/infertility?

No, there is no such valid evidence of polio vaccine being a reason of impotency or infertility. It has become a mandate in many countries for foreigners travelling in the country to get the vaccination done.

18. For how long will the campaigns run?

The pulse polio campaigns and polio vaccinations will run until the time Polio becomes extinct from the world.

19. What are the doses of polio vaccine?

Each country may have a different polio immunization schedule on basis of country’s epidemiology.
World health organization recommends OPV dose when a baby is born which is called a ‘zero dose’. This has to be followed by primary series of three oral polio Vaccine doses and minimum one Inactivated Polio Vaccine dose.
The primary series of three OPV doses can be started at 6 weeks. A minimum interval of 4 weeks between the OPV doses has to be observed.
If at all only one dose of IPV is mentioned in the immunization calendar provided by the vaccination center, it should be administered after at least weeks of age. This is when immunogenicity is higher. This can be administered parallel to OPV.
For IPV, a minimum interval of 8 weeks has to be maintained in between the doses. Presently, 2 shots of Injectible IPV are sufficient for completion of primary immunization. Ideally, a single booster shot is given at 18 months.
Ideal dosage followed in Indian Schedule as per Indian Academy of Pediatrics:

– At Birth- OPV Zero dose
– 6 Weeks- OPV
– 10 Weeks- OPV
– 14 Weeks- OPV
– 15-18 months- Booster OPV
– 5 Years- Booster OPV

– 10 Weeks: IPV
– 18 Weeks: IPV
– 15-18 months: Booster IPV

Points to be considered:
The vaccination schedule may vary depending on epidemiology in different regions of the country. It is recommended you follow the chart provided by the vaccination center whether it is private or government run. Not to avoid participating in pulse polio programme.
For children with immune deficiency or HIV+ and their families should preferably go with IPV. It is best to speak with the expert in such cases. Primary vaccination should be administered with 2 shots at week 10 and week 18 OR 3 shots at week 6 week 10 and week 14. Booster doses at 15-18 months and 5 years.

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