Polio Vaccination: Who Needs It?

Health Alert

Fall, 2014

CDC is working with partners in Colorado to investigate reports of 10 children hospitalized for acute neurologic illness with limb weakness of unknown cause. These children are being tested for poliovirus, West Nile virus, and enteroviruses. Investigations into these and other possible infectious and non-infectious causes are ongoing. See CDC Health Advisory Notice (HAN).

Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus that invades the nervous system.

There are two types of vaccine that can prevent polio: inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) and oral polio vaccine (OPV). Only IPV has been used in the United States since 2000; however OPV is still used throughout much of the world.

IPV is a shot, given in the leg or arm, depending on age. Polio vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines.

Who Needs It?

Does my infant or child need this vaccine?

Children should be vaccinated with 4 doses of inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) at the following ages:

  • A dose at 2 months
  • A dose at 4 months
  • A dose at 6-18 months
  • A booster dose at 4-6 years

These are the recommended ages, but children traveling to areas where wild poliovirus (WPV) has circulated in the last 12 months should complete the series before international travel. If a child cannot complete the routine series before departure, an accelerated schedule is recommended. See Vaccination for International Travelers, Infants and Children.

For additional details, consult the Polio Vaccine Information Statement and the Childhood Immunization Schedule.

As an adult, do I need this vaccine?

Most adults do not need polio vaccine because they were already vaccinated as children. But three groups of adults are at higher risk and should consider polio vaccination in the following situations:

  • You are traveling to polio-endemic or high-risk areas of the world. Ask your healthcare provider for specific information on whether you need to be vaccinated.
  • You are working in a laboratory and handling specimens that might contain polioviruses.
  • You are a healthcare worker treating patients who could have polio or have close contact with a person who could be infected with poliovirus.

Adults in these three groups who have never been vaccinated against polio should get 3 doses of IPV:

  • The first dose at any time,
  • The second dose 1 to 2 months later,
  • The third dose 6 to 12 months after the second.

Adults in these three groups who have had 1 or 2 doses of polio vaccine in the past should get the remaining 1 or 2 doses. It doesn’t matter how long it has been since the
earlier dose(s).

Adults who are at increased risk of exposure to poliovirus and who have previously completed a routine series of polio vaccine (IPV or OPV) can receive one lifetime booster dose of IPV.

For additional details, consult the Polio Vaccine Information Statement and the Adult Immunization Schedule.

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Page last reviewed: October 3, 2014