That doesn’t happen with the shot vaccine, which contains a virus that’s basically dead and can’t replicate at all. That’s why many countries have switched to injectable polio vaccine – for example, the UK abandoned the oral polio vaccine in 2004. The injected vaccine is given in four or five doses, with the first dose given at two months of age.
How did it come about?
So why did the virus show up in London’s wastewater? Stonehouse said the chain of transmission likely started in a child who recently received an oral vaccine in another country. “That child may have been totally fine, and vaccine-derived polio production may have now stopped,” she said. “But they may have passed it on to other people and other people passed it on to other people.” The virus appears to have spread through a small but unknown number of people in London.
I say London because that’s where the virus was found. Stonehouse said several sites there and one in Scotland routinely conduct a series of virus screenings of sewage. But many virologists believe the virus could spread more widely in the UK and beyond – we just haven’t seen it.
Why now? Stonehouse chalked it up to “bad luck.” This spread may have happened before, we just didn’t notice it. That’s no reason to be boring, though. “The virus spreads easily and any signs of transmission are concerning,” she said.
How worried should we be? Adults can develop serious illness, but this is rare and they should still be protected by any vaccines they received as children. I’m grateful for the vaccine dose of sugar cubes I was fed as a kid.
Children under the age of 5 are at greatest risk of developing polio and its complications, so it is important to ensure that children receive routine vaccinations in a timely manner. My daughter should already be protected – she has already taken three doses for a child her age.
Children are more susceptible to contracting and spreading the polio virus than adults, and they can do so even if they are vaccinated.A statement from the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation (JCVI) cited unpublished evidence that Whooping cough vaccine given to pregnant women reduces infant’s immune response to first vaccination vaccination, which suggests that these vaccines may not be protective early in life. That’s part of the reason why even vaccinated kids like me are now vaccinated. And because the vaccine is so safe, “even if you’re fully covered, getting another one won’t hurt,” Stonehouse said.
Polio cannot be cured, but it can be prevented. That’s why I packed my daughter with toddler-friendly cookies and a ready-made YouTube coconut video On my phone, visiting our local doctor on a sunny Thursday afternoon.
My oldest daughter was not invited to get a booster – no vaccine was given to children who had been vaccinated in preschool (three years and four months) in the past year. But she will qualify in a few months. I hope we won’t need one by then.