Polio: Why is there a push to vaccinate children in London?

As public health officials announce a polio vaccine booster program for children in London, we take a look at the reasons behind the campaign.

Who is offered the polio vaccine??

All children aged one to nine in London are expected to receive a polio vaccine in the coming weeks. For some this will be part of a ‘catchup’ program to ensure they are up to date with childhood vaccinations, while for others it will be a booster shot offered to all London children in that group of age

Parents and carers will be advised by their GP when it is their child’s turn to come in for a vaccination.

What vaccine is used?

The vaccine used in the UK is known as inactivated polio vaccine (IPV), which means it cannot cause polio. This vaccine is very safe and effective.

IPV is usually given in combination with vaccines for other conditions, such as tetanus and diphtheria, although the combination used varies by age.

The Guardian understands that the three IPV-containing jabs used in the UK will be deployed in the polio vaccine booster program to ensure rapid access to supplies.

Why are additional vaccinations only given in London?

Currently, geographic analysis of sewage samples has revealed poliovirus in sewage from north-east and central London.

As a result, public health officials are focusing on increasing vaccination levels in London, starting in districts where poliovirus has been detected and vaccination rates are low.

However, officials say surveillance of polio sewage is being expanded to London and beyond to explore whether the polio virus has spread outside the capital.

Why are young children the focus of vaccination?

One of the issues raised by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) is the low uptake of shots containing polio vaccine among this demographic.

“Vaccination coverage for the three-dose primary schedule in one-year-olds in London is well below the average achieved for the UK and uptake of the pre-school booster in five-year-olds is even lower “, said the committee, adding. that there is significant overlap between areas with low levels of vaccine coverage and those where poliovirus has been found in wastewater.

In addition, public health officials say young children may be less able to practice good hygiene, an important factor in managing the spread of the poliovirus.

By vaccinating young children, public health officials hope to bolster their protection against paralysis, a rare but potentially deadly symptom of polio, and slow the spread of the virus.

How concerned should parents and carers be?

Currently, the UK’s Health Safety Agency says that most poliovirus-containing samples from London’s sewage include vaccine-like poliovirus, a weakened form of the virus that cannot cause polio. This virus can be shed in the faeces of people recently vaccinated with the live oral polio vaccine (OPV), which has not been used in the UK since 2004.

However, if vaccine-like poliovirus circulates, it can acquire mutations that increase its virulence, resulting in vaccine-derived poliovirus that has the potential to cause paralysis in those who are not vaccinated. Some of the sewage samples from London have been found to contain this type of poliovirus.

No cases of polio or related paralysis have yet been reported, and the JCVI says paralysis from vaccine-derived polioviruses is rare. However, the committee notes that non-immune children are at risk.

“I recognize that parents and guardians will be concerned about the detection of polio in London, but I want to reassure people that no one has been diagnosed with the virus and that the risk to the general population is low,” he said. Steve Barclay, the health secretary.

As a result of vaccinations, the last case of polio in the UK was in 1984.

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