Polio is a viral disease that can damage the central nervous system causing paralysis. The severity of this disease can range from mild to serious, depending on the muscles that are affected. Prior to the development of the polio vaccine in 1955, thousands of people were affected with Polio every year. Fortunately, effective vaccines have helped to eliminate Polio from the United States.
The polio vaccine is usually administered in four doses before a child enters school. The vaccine is often given at two, four, twelve, eighteen months, and between four and six years of age. There are two types of polio vaccines. The inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) is injected in the arm or let. The oral polio vaccine (OPV) is taken orally as drops in the mouth. Both of these forms of the vaccine provide excellent protection against polio. Parents can usually choose one of three recommended schedules for administering this vaccine. They can choose from all-OPV, all-IPV, or combined OPV-IPV. Parents should discuss the schedule options with their child's pediatrician.
The OPV form has been found to provide excellent protection against polio. It is effective at preventing the spread of the viral disease from person to person. This form is favored by children because no injections are required. Because OPV is made from a weakened form of the polio virus, it does have the rare potential of causing vaccine associated paralytic polio (VAPP) in a person with a compromised immune system. It is even possible that a person in close contact with a child who received this vaccine could experience VAPP if they were not properly immunized themselves. However, the likelihood of this occurring is very rare. The all-OPV schedule is usually recommended for children who are allergic the antibiotics neomycin or streptomycin, which are used in the production of IPV.
IPV also provides excellent protection against the polio virus. Research has found that this form of the vaccine does not cause any major health problems. Mild sensitivity at the injection site is common though. Unlike OPV, IPV is made with an inactivated polio virus and can not cause VAPP. However, should there be a polio outbreak; anyone vaccinated with IPV is more susceptible to catching or spreading the polio virus. The IPV schedule is recommend for children who are receiving radiation or chemotherapy treatments or for children with chronic illnesses, who are undergoing long-term steroid treatment.