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  • Writer's pictureThe British Polio Fellowship

London in new push to catch-up on polio vaccines

Children aged one to 11 in London are to be offered the polio vaccine, in an attempt to catch-up on immunisations after thousands missed out.

In August 2022, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) warned there had been transmission of the poliovirus, following its detected in sewage in Barnet, Brent, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Islington and Waltham Forest.

Sewage surveillance was extended across London and to 18 other areas including Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield.

A major polio booster vaccination campaign was launched in September by NHS London, for 1 to 9-year-olds living in London where the virus had been detected and vaccination take-up was low. Later, it was extended to the rest of London.

By the end of December the campaign was paused, with no explanation.

According to the UKHSA, in London only 87.65% of children are receiving all their polio vaccinations by the time they turn one, and the uptake of the pre-school booster for 5-year-olds is even lower at 69.9%. This compares with the rest of England, where the figures are 92.1% and 83.4% respectively.

Last week, the NHS London announced that during the school summer term, it will begin a “catch-up campaign”. Polio and other routine childhood vaccines will be offered to unvaccinated and partially vaccinated children aged one to 11 years.

“Covid and school lockdowns have disrupted polio vaccination programmes, but we need to get back on track, especially in London. In some London boroughs vaccination rates are far too low.

“Parents of children aged between 1 and 11 need to take their children for the polio vaccination. It is the only means of defence against this destructive virus” commented Kripen Dhrona, Chief Executive at the British Polio Fellowship.

“Clearly, polio is still around and when the virus strikes, if you are unvaccinated, it can be life-threatening. It can result in paralysis and serious later-life health problems. The vaccination programme has worked for decades, and it can continue to work, but all children must be vaccinated.”

To date, no clinical cases of polio have been reported and the poliovirus strain found in London, has not been detected at any of the other sites.

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