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Yes, polio is a routine vaccination in the U.S.

Most adults don’t need to get the polio vaccine since they likely received it as children in the U.S. All 50 states require the polio vaccination to attend school.
Credit: angellodeco - stock.adobe.com

The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) reported a case of polio in a Rockland County resident on July 21, 2022, marking the first case in the U.S. in nearly a decade. 

More recently, on Sept. 9, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul issued an executive order declaring a disaster emergency over polio in the state, which increases the availability of resources to protect residents from the disease. 

As New York officials urge polio vaccination for unvaccinated children and adults, some people online are wondering whether they have already received the polio vaccine. 

THE QUESTION

Is polio a routine vaccination in the United States?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is true.

Yes, polio is a routine vaccination in the United States. It has been recommended since the 1950s and is currently required for children attending school in all 50 states.

WHAT WE FOUND

Most adults do not need to get the polio vaccine since they likely received it as children in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says

The first polio vaccine was available in the U.S. in 1955 and has been recommended as a routine vaccination ever since. About 24 years later, in 1979, poliovirus was eliminated in the U.S. due to widespread vaccination, though the virus hasn’t been eradicated worldwide, according to the CDC.  

Both the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that children in the U.S. get the polio vaccine to protect against the virus. Children should get up to four doses of polio vaccine at the following ages: 2 months, 4 months, 6 through 18 months, and 4 through 6 years old. 

Credit: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

“It is because of vaccines that children rarely get serious diseases like tetanus, measles, rubella, meningitis and polio,” the AAP says. “Only one disease, smallpox, has been eliminated completely by vaccines. We still need vaccines for the other diseases because they are only a plane ride away.”

There isn’t a national polio vaccine mandate in place, the CDC says. But all 50 states and Washington, D.C., require children to get the polio vaccine in order to attend school, according to Immunize.org, a nonprofit that compiles information on state mandates, and Pew Research Center

State vaccine mandates apply to children attending public school, and many include private schools and daycare centers, too, according to the CDC and an article in the William & Mary Law Review.

All states provide medical exemptions to vaccines, while some allow exemptions for religious or philosophical reasons. 

The inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) has been the only polio vaccination available in the U.S. since 2000, according to the CDC. It is given by a shot in the leg or arm, depending on a person’s age. 

An oral polio vaccine (OPV), which was given as liquid drops by mouth, was recommended for use in the U.S. from 1963 until 2000, according to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The oral vaccine is no longer licensed or available in the U.S. since it can cause polio in few people, though it is used in other countries. 

The IPV has been used in the U.S. since 1987 and is “as effective as OPV for preventing polio.” According to the CDC, unvaccinated adults who are at risk for poliovirus infection should get three doses of IPV: one at any time; the second dose 1 to 2 months later; and the third dose 6 to 12 months after the second.  The three dose regimen provides at least 99% protection, the CDC says.

Vaccinated adults who are at increased risk of exposure to polio, including health care personnel who may treat polio patients, lab workers, and those traveling to an area with high rates of polio can receive a booster dose of IPV.

New York residents who are unvaccinated – including children by 2 months of age – pregnant people, and those who have not completed their polio vaccine series previously “should get immunized right away,” NYSDOH said in a statement. 

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