The polio vaccine is offered as part of the 5-in-1 DTaP/IPV/Hib injection, which also gives fortification against whooping cough, diphtheria, tetanus and illnesses brought on by Hib. The 5-in-1 vaccine is the first vaccination to be administered to babies in the UK and is given in a number of doses, in order to make sure children build up a sturdy resistance against the disease.

When is the vaccine provided?

It is when children are 2, 3 and 4 months old that the 5-in-1 vaccine is administered. Booster polio vaccinations are also recommended at the time of 3 years, 4 months (pre-school booster) and between the ages of 13 and 18. Polio vaccines may also be suggested for people who are preparing to set off to a country where polio is common.

There have been no reported cases of polio in the UK since 1998. In the past, the condition was very common but since the polio vaccine began in 1955 cases have became much less common. There are now only four countries where polio is still a serious problem: Nigeria, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan.

About polio

Polio, also known as poliomyelitis, is a viral infection that causes flu-like symptoms in most people but can potentially be life-threatening. In severe cases, the virus can attack the nervous system and cause paralysis.

Symptoms of polio

Symptoms of polio include:

  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • Nausea.
  • High temperature.
  • Constipation.

Polio is a mild condition on the whole but it can be much more serious. Symptoms of severe polio include:

  • Breathing difficulties.
  • Back ache and joint stiffness.
  • Floppy limbs.
  • Decreased ability to smell, hear and taste.
  • Damage to the heart.

There is currently no cure for polio and it is vital that people have the disease combating vaccine.

Are vaccinations safe?

Vaccinations have to undergo rigorous testing before they are allowed to be offered by doctors, which means that all the vaccinations available in the UK have been passed as safe and effective. It is regular for people to experience mild symptoms as a consequence of the vaccination, but they usually clear up quickly and the benefits of having injections are much greater than the risks.

Common side-effects of the 5-in-1 jab comprise:

  • Ache and puffiness in the region of the injection site.
  • Increased irritability.
  • Slightly raised temperature.
  • Generally feeling unwell.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • Sickness.
  • Loss of appetite.

Polio travel advice

If you are arranging an expedition to countries in which polio is widespread you may be informed to have a booster vaccine. You should ask your GP for advice about vaccinations and make sure you leave plenty of time, as some injections need to be given well in advance. Injections are usually obtainable from your GP surgery, but they may have to order them in and you will need to allow time for this. In some cases, you may be directed to go to a travel clinic for your immunisations.

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