Childhood Diseases Vaccinations Polio

Polio is a virus that enters the body through the mouth. It can cause paralysis and can be fatal due to paralysis of muscles used for breathing. The development of the polio vaccine has helped to virtually eliminate cases of polio in the United States. However, it’s still important to get your child the polio vaccine.

Polio Vaccine History

Thousands of people died each year prior to the development of a vaccine for polio by Jonas Salk. The first polio vaccine was given in the United States in 1955. There have been no cases of polio in this country for 20 years thanks to the Salk vaccine. Polio still exists in some parts of the world, but a world-wide effort to eliminate polio is underway. The polio vaccine is the best defense against this virus.

About the Vaccine for Polio

The vaccine used in the United States today is an inactivated polio vaccine (IPV). This is given through a shot in the arm or leg, and contains small amounts of the killed virus. The oral polio vaccine (OPV) was originally given because it was better able to stop the spread of the disease from person to person.

However, this form of vaccine has been shown to actually cause the polio virus in a very small number of people. Since polio is no longer seen in the United States, and the IPV has been proven successful, the use of the OPV is no longer worth the risk.

Medical professionals recommend that children receive four doses of the vaccine. These can be administered at the same time as other vaccinations. Children should get the polio vaccine at the following ages:

  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 to 18 months
  • 4 to 6 years.

Who Should Not Get the Polio Vaccine?

People who are moderately or seriously ill should wait until they have recovered before being vaccinated for polio. Minor illnesses, such as a cold, should not prevent children from getting the polio vaccine.

Anyone who has exhibited severe allergic reactions to the antibiotics neomycin, streptomycin or polymyxin B should not get the polio vaccine, as it contains small amounts of these medicines. Also, people who’ve had a serious or life-threatening reaction to a prior polio vaccine shouldn’t get another dose. Always check with your doctor to be sure it’s safe for your child to receive a vaccination.

Slight reactions such as swelling or soreness at the injection site and fever can occur. Your doctor will advise you on how to deal with these. Be sure to contact your child’s physician if you suspect any other side effects from the vaccination.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Staff. (2000). Polio vaccine: What you need to know. Retrieved January 1, 2010, from the Centers for Disease Control Web site:

Family Doctor Staff. (2009). Polio vaccine. Retrieved January 1, 2010, from the Family Doctor Web site:

Immunization Action Coalition Staff. (2009). Polio vaccine. Retrieved January 1, 2010, from the Immunization Action Coalition Website: