Polio Vaccine (Inactivated Polio Vaccine; IPV)

What is polio?

Polio is a highly contagious disease caused by 3 types of poliovirus. Polio is a virus known to damage the nervous system and cause paralysis. Most people infected with polio have no symptoms. Some have mild symptoms. The CDC says, of those who do get the infection, 1 in 200 or fewer may get paralysis. Since the polio vaccine was invented in the early 1950s, polio has nearly been eliminated. But there have been outbreaks spreading from the few countries where the disease still exists. These countries are:

  • Pakistan

  • Cameroon

  • Nigeria

  • Syria

  • Afghanistan

  • Equatorial Guinea

  • Ethiopia

  • Iraq

  • Israel

  • Somalia

What polio vaccine is recommended in the U.S.? 

Today, polio is rare in the U.S. because of the use of the vaccine. But it still occurs in some countries. Because of increased travel between countries, all children still need to be immunized to protect them from the disease. The type of polio vaccine recommended in the U.S. is called inactivated polio vaccine (IPV). This is an inactivated (killed) form of the virus. It's given as a shot. It provides a very safe way to protect against polio. Another form called oral polio vaccine (OPV) was given in the past in the U.S. But the OPV contains a live, weakened form of the virus and has a small risk of causing polio. OPV is still given in other countries because it works better than IPV in preventing the spread of polio.

When is IPV given?

IPV is given to babies and children in 4 doses at ages:

  • 2 months

  • 4 months

  • Between 6 to 18 months

  • 4 to 6 years

  • "Catch-up doses" may be given to older children and adults, if needed. 

People of any age going to countries where polio is still active, and staying for more than 4 weeks, should get the polio vaccine or a polio booster within 12 months before travel.

Children who are sick or have a fever should wait until they are well to get the polio vaccine. Some children should not get IPV. These include those who have ever had an allergic reaction to the antibiotic neomycin, streptomycin, or polymyxin B. Also, those who have had a previous reaction to the polio vaccine. Always see your child's healthcare provider about vaccines.

What are the risks from IPV?

A vaccine can rarely cause serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. But the IPV is very safe. Most people have no problems other than muscle soreness at the site where the shot was given.

How do I care for my child after the IPV vaccine?

  • Give your child aspirin-free pain reliever, as directed by your child's healthcare provider. Don't give your child aspirin.

  • An allergic reaction would most likely occur within a few minutes to a few hours of the shot. Signs may include:

    • Trouble breathing

    • Swelling of the face and throat

    • Wheezing

    • Weakness

    • Rapid heartbeat

    • Hives

    • Feeling dizzy

    • Paleness

    Report these or any other unusual signs immediately to your child's healthcare provider or seek immediate medical care.

Online Medical Reviewer: Barry Zingman MD
Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 4/1/2022
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