Should You Get A Polio Vaccine Booster? Here’s How To Decide

Didn’t think “Decide whether to get the polio vaccine as an adult” would be on your 2022 to-do list, right? Wasn’t the United States declared polio-free in 1979, years after polio vaccination became part of routine childhood immunizations? But then again, you probably didn’t expect “Read how poliovirus reappeared in the US” to be on your 2022 list, either.

Well, the resurgence of the poliovirus in the US is causing many people to now check if they were vaccinated against polio as a child and wonder if they need a booster shot as an adult. As I covered forbes On August 6, an unvaccinated adult in New York contracted paralytic polio, the first confirmed case of polio in the United States since 2013. Additionally, sewage samples from the state have shown the presence of the virus, meaning others, possibly hundreds of others, have already contracted the virus. Obviously anything that can cause paralysis is not good to have. Neither is anything that can lead to death because death would kind of ruin your day. So the return of the poliovirus, which disables an average of more than 35,000 people each year in the United States, is clearly bad news.

On closer inspection, is this return really that surprising? In nature there is a thing called cause and effect. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared measles eradicated in the United States in 2000 due to successful vaccination efforts. But after years of bombarding people with unscientific anti-vaccine messages, what do you think would happen? Measles vaccination rates fell and then, guess what, measles outbreaks started again in the United States in the last decade. Polio immunization rates have also fallen over the same period, despite the vaccine having an excellent safety record and three doses of inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) being 99% effective in preventing and preventing paralytic polio, according to the Centers for Disease Control. CDC). Lower vaccination rates have meant that the polio virus would have to infect more bodies, as if giving the virus more cheap motel rooms to inhabit and multiply in, which is why the polio situation in New York is occurring now.

So what should you do? If you are a toddler, congratulations on your ability to read. If you can also write, you may want to leave notes between your burping to remind your parents to get your recommended vaccines, including four doses of IPV at 2 months, 4 months, 6 to 18 months, and 4 to 4 months 6 years old. If you are older, check with your parents to see if they have vaccinated you. If they start talking about the “deep state” and don’t want you to become a giant magnet with the key and anvil taped to your forehead, you might want to track down your old vaccination cards from your school or doctor to help yourself to check if you were actually vaccinated as a young child.

If you either cannot verify this or know for sure that you have not been vaccinated against polio, you can always get three doses of IPV as an adult. Once you get the first dose, you’ll need to wait one to two months to get the second dose, and then another six to 12 months to get the third dose. As an adult, IPV is as simple as one, two, three.

In theory, if you did get the four-dose series as a kid, that should give you lifelong protection. It’s theoretical, because while studies suggest that protection can last for decades, they haven’t yet accurately determined whether such protection lasts for life for everyone. So yes, it is possible that after being vaccinated as a child, your protection may decrease somewhat at some point as an adult.

That’s the reason for the CDC’s current recommendation that as an adult who was vaccinated as a child, you don’t need an adult booster shot unless you’re “at increased risk of exposure to the poliovirus.” Now you may be wondering what exactly would put you at increased risk of exposure to the poliovirus? If you’re planning on snorkeling in the sewage of New York, where the polio virus was recently found, you could be at increased risk. The same applies if you are in close contact with people who may be infected with the poliovirus or who deal with the poliovirus in any way. So it’s a good idea to get boosted if you work in healthcare or in a lab where every jar, test tube, or other container happens to have the word “polio” written on it.

The CDC also recommends getting a booster shot if “you are traveling to a country where there is a greater risk of contracting polio.” These include Afghanistan and Pakistan, where polio remains endemic. Of course, one may wonder today whether New York or other parts of the United States represent a place “where the risk of contracting polio is greater.” This may seem difficult as the true number and distribution of people currently infected is not known. Public health departments simply don’t have the resources to track numbers like this. That’s what happens when the country invests so little in public health infrastructure.

However, unless you are a healthcare worker, a laboratory worker handling polio samples, traveling to a country where polio is even more prevalent than the USA, or otherwise being close to someone who has polio has a good chance of contracting it. At the same time, there’s really no harm in getting an adult booster shot. Billions of people have received IPV since it was first approved in the United States on April 12, 1955. If you are unsure about your exposure risk, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may tell you to get the adult booster vaccine. That should protect you against polio for life and give you peace of mind. Surely it would be up to you alone to remove “decide whether to get the polio vaccine as an adult” from your 2022 to-do list. And your 2023, your 2024 and so on.

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