What Is Polio?
Polio is a serious illness caused by a virus. It spreads easily through person to person contact.
Most people who get the infection have no symptoms at all. It can lead to serious problems in some people, such as meningitis or paralysis. It can be deadly.
What Is the Polio Vaccine?
The polio vaccine is made of an inactive form of the polio virus. Inactive forms cannot cause an infection. Instead, they stimulate the body to make antibodies to fight future infections.
Who Should Get Vaccinated and When?
The polio vaccine is advised for all children. The vaccine is usually given in 4 doses at ages:
- 2 months
- 4 months
- 6 to 18 months
- 4 to 6 years
Most adults do not need the vaccine because they received it when they were children. Some adults are at higher risk and should consider getting the vaccine, such as:
- People traveling to areas of the world where polio is common
- Laboratory workers who handle the polio virus
- Healthcare workers who treat patients who may have polio
- Unvaccinated people whose children will be receiving oral poliovirus vaccine, such as international adoptees or refugees
What Are the Risks Associated With the Polio Vaccine?
Common side effects are soreness, redness, or swelling at the injection site.
Less common, but more serious side effects are serious allergic reaction or death.
Acetaminophen is sometimes given for pain and fever after a vaccination. In infants, this may weaken the vaccine's effectiveness. It should only be given if advised by a child's care team.
Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?
You should not get the polio vaccine if you:
- Have had an allergic reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine
- Have severe, life-threatening allergies
People who are moderately or severely ill should wait to get the vaccine.
The vaccine can be given to a pregnant person if they are at high risk for infection and need protection right away.
What Other Ways Can Polio Be Prevented Besides Vaccination?
The risk of polio can be lowered by practicing good personal hygiene.
What Happens in the Event of an Outbreak?
In the event of an outbreak, all people who have not received the polio vaccine should receive it.
WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
Vaccines & Immunizations
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Poliomyelitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/poliomyelitis. Accessed September 7, 2021.
Polio vaccination: who needs it? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/polio/public/vacc-in-short.html. Accessed September 7, 2021.
Polio vaccine. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/polio-vaccine. Accessed September 7, 2021.
Polio VIS. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/ipv.html. Accessed September 7, 2021.
Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kuenn, MD Last Updated: 9/7/2021