Children under 10 to receive polio boosters as virus returns to UK for first time in 40 years
- Children under 10 to receive polio booster shots after it was declared a national incident in June
- Polio can paralyze or even kill and experts suggest it is spreading because of sewage samples
- By the age of two, almost 95% of children have received all five doses of the vaccine, but this falls below 90% in London.
Children under ten in London will be offered polio booster shots after the virus returned to the UK for the first time in 40 years.
Health chiefs declared a national incident in June after samples of the virus, which can paralyze or even kill in the worst cases, were found at a sewage site in London.
The UK’s Health and Safety Executive is now expected to launch a major push to ensure children are vaccinated or given a booster in the capital.
An announcement about the vaccine’s rollout is expected this week, including details on which areas will be targeted. It is understood that children aged one to nine in Greater London will be offered boosters.
So far there have been no confirmed cases of polio in patients in Britain, but experts have suggested it has been passed from person to person because of the amount of poliovirus samples in sewage.
Children should receive five doses of the vaccine between the ages of 8 weeks and 14 years.
By the age of two, almost 95% of children in the UK have received the correct number of doses.
Children aged one to nine in Greater London to be offered polio boosters as the virus spreads (file image)
But that drops to just under 90 percent in London. Regarding pre-school reinforcement, only 71% of the children in the capital have had it at the age of five.
A public health source told the Daily Mirror last night: “They are trying to cut it out of the blue.” It’s a precaution but it’s a horrible mistake.
“They offer all children one to nine additional doses, regardless of where they are in their course.
“No cases have been found, but sewage samples suggest that community transmission is occurring.”
The virus was detected at Beckton sewage treatment plants, which cover a population of four million in north and east London.
It’s normal for sampling to detect spot traces of poliovirus in sewage each year, but officials said a sample identified in April was genetically related to one first seen in February that persisted and mutated in a “vaccine-derived” poliovirus, which is more similar to the “wild” type that can cause severe symptoms.
Most people who contract polio have no symptoms and will fight off the infection without realizing they have it.
Some will experience flu-like symptoms such as high temperature, sore throat, headache, stomach ache, muscle aches and sickness.
In up to one in 100 cases, the virus attacks the nerves in the spine and base of the brain.
A series of polio epidemics rocked the UK during the 1950s, with up to 7,000 paralyzed each year.
The epidemics ended with the introduction of the oral polio vaccine in 1962 and Britain was declared polio-free in 2003.
The UK uses an inactivated polio vaccine, which is given as part of a combination shot to babies, toddlers and teenagers as part of the NHS childhood vaccination schedule.
Those who have oral polio vaccines, which have not been used in the UK since 2004, can excrete the virus from the vaccine in their stools several weeks after vaccination.
These viruses can spread and mutate in poorly protected communities. The current scare has been linked to oral vaccines still being used overseas.
Dr Vanessa Saliba, consultant epidemiologist at UKHSA, said: “The risk to the public from the poliovirus recently detected in London’s sewage is very low, but it is important that anyone who is not up to date with polio vaccines contact your GP.
“The majority of the UK population will be protected by childhood vaccination, but it is clear that vaccine-derived poliovirus could spread, particularly in communities where vaccine uptake is lower.”
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