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  • Writer's pictureThe British Polio Fellowship

Children in London urged to take up the polio vaccine

Parents and carers of London-based children aged 1-9 are being urged to take up the polio vaccine as a re-emergence of the virus in wastewater has led to fears of a wider outbreak.

The ‘catchup’ or booster vaccination will offer a high level of protection from paralysis and limit further spread of the virus.

“All children aged 1 to 9 years in London need to have a dose of polio vaccine now — whether it’s an extra booster dose or just to catch up with their routine vaccinations.

“It will ensure a high level of protection from paralysis. This may also help stop the virus spreading further” commented the UK Health Security Agency,

Parents and carers in affected areas will be contacted by their health practitioner to schedule an appointment for their child to receive an inactivated polio vaccine, with up to a million children expected to be offered the injection.

“The polio vaccine used in the UK is an inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) which means it cannot cause polio. This vaccine is very safe and effective” explained Kripen Dhrona, Chief Executive of the British Polio Fellowship.

“Polio is a rare but highly infectious virus that can occasionally cause paralysis, in people who aren’t fully vaccinated” he added.

“There have been no cases of polio detected in the U.K. since 2013, after a widespread vaccination campaign eradicated the disease and the risk to the majority of people who are fully vaccinated is low The risk is to non-immune children.”

UK health authorities declared a national incident in June after traces of the virus were discovered in sewage samples in the northeast London area. Routine sewage surveillance usually spots traces of the virus once or twice a year, typically deriving from individuals who have been vaccinated overseas with the live oral polio vaccine, no longer used in the UK.

However, since February, 116 samples of the virus have been detected in samples across eight London boroughs. These are Barnet, Brent, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Islington and Waltham Forest.

The UKHSA noted genetic analysis of the samples suggests the spread has now gone “beyond a close network of a few individuals” and could be spreading within the community. While most of the samples detected are the safe vaccine form of polio, “a few” have mutated enough to be dangerous.

Health officials are increasing sewage surveillance nationally.

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Oct 07, 2022

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