Polio Vaccine: What You Need to Know
Why get vaccinated?
Vaccination can protect people from polio. Polio is a disease caused by a virus. It is spread mainly by person-to-person contact. It can also be spread by consuming food or drinks that are contaminated with the feces of an infected person.
Most people infected with polio have no symptoms, and many recover without complications. But sometimes people who get polio develop paralysis (cannot move their arms or legs). Polio can result in permanent disability. Polio can also cause death, usually by paralyzing the muscles used for breathing.
Polio used to be very common in the United States. It paralyzed and killed thousands of people every year before polio vaccine was introduced in 1955. There is no cure for polio infection, but it can be prevented by vaccination.
Polio has been eliminated from the United States. But it still occurs in other parts of the world. 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 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.
Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) can prevent polio.
Most people should get IPV when they are children. Doses of IPV are usually given at 2, 4, 6 to 18 months, and 4 to 6 years of age.
The schedule might be different for some children (including those traveling to certain countries and those who receive IPV as part of a combination vaccine). Your health care provider can give you more information.
Most adults do not need IPV because they were already vaccinated against polio as children. But some adults are at higher risk and should consider polio vaccination, including:
- people traveling to certain parts of the world,
- laboratory workers who might handle polio virus, and
- health care workers treating patients who could have polio.
These higher-risk adults may need 1 to 3 doses of IPV, depending on how many doses they have had in the past.
There are no known risks to getting IPV at the same time as other vaccines.
Some people should not get this vaccine
Tell the person who is giving the vaccine:
If the person getting the vaccine has any severe, life-threatening allergies.
If you ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction after a dose of IPV, or have a severe allergy to any part of this vaccine, you may be advised not to get vaccinated. Ask your health care provider if you want information about vaccine components.
If the person getting the vaccine is not feeling well.
If you have a mild illness, such as a cold, you can probably get the vaccine today. If you are moderately or severely ill, you should probably wait until you recover. Your doctor can advise you.
Risks of a vaccine reaction
With any medicine, including vaccines, there is a chance of side effects. These are usually mild and go away on their own, but serious reactions are also possible.
Some people who get IPV get a sore spot where the shot was given. IPV has not been known to cause serious problems, and most people do not have any problems with it.
Other problems that could happen after this vaccine:
- People sometimes faint after a medical procedure, including vaccination. Sitting or lying down for about 15 minutes can help prevent fainting and injuries caused by a fall. Tell your provider if you feel dizzy, or have vision changes or ringing in the ears.
- Some people get shoulder pain that can be more severe and longer-lasting than the more routine soreness that can follow injections. This happens very rarely.
- Any medication can cause a severe allergic reaction. Such reactions from a vaccine are very rare, estimated at about 1 in a million doses, and would happen within a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.
As with any medicine, there is a very remote chance of a vaccine causing a serious injury or death.
The safety of vaccines is always being monitored. For more information, visit: www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/
What if there is a serious reaction?
What should I look for?
- Look for anything that concerns you, such as signs of a severe allergic reaction, very high fever, or unusual behavior.
Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, and weakness. These would usually start a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.
What should I do?
- If you think it is a severe allergic reaction or other emergency that can't wait, call 9-1-1 or get to the nearest hospital. Otherwise, call your clinic. Afterward, the reaction should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Your doctor should file this report, or you can do it yourself through the VAERS web site at www.vaers.hhs.gov, or by calling 1-800-822-7967.
VAERS does not give medical advice.
The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program
The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) is a federal program that was created to compensate people who may have been injured by certain vaccines.
Persons who believe they may have been injured by a vaccine can learn about the program and about filing a claim by calling 1-800-338-2382 or visiting the VICP website at www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecompensation. There is a time limit to file a claim for compensation.
How can I learn more?
- Ask your healthcare provider. He or she can give you the vaccine package insert or suggest other sources of information.
- Call your local or state health department.
- Contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Call 1-800-232-4636 (1-800-CDC-INFO) or
- Visit CDC's website at www.cdc.gov/vaccines
Vaccine Information Statement
42 U.S.C. § 300aa-26
Department of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Many Vaccine Information Statements are available in Spanish and other languages. See www.immunize.org/vis.
Muchas hojas de información sobre vacunas están disponibles en español y en otros idiomas. Visite www.immunize.org/vis.