Polio Vaccine for Babies – All Your Questions Answered

5 min read

Everyone remembers the iconic advert where Amitabh Bacchan promoted getting the polio vaccine for your babies. The government chose him to do that advert for all the right reasons. People lacked awareness, and the government had to do something about it. And the actor did the job with his presence and influencing powers. But, a brief video spanning a few seconds cannot answer the questions that people have about the polio vaccine for babies. So here is what you need to know about the polio vaccine, its benefits, types, dosage, and side effects.

polio vaccine

Polio is Infectious and Life-Threatening

Poliovirus causes polio, and it is an infectious, life-threatening disease. A baby can get infected via physical contact with someone suffering from polio. It is contagious. Poliovirus affects the brain and the spinal cord in the body and may result in paralysis of certain parts.

The symptoms are:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Retching
  • Stomach ache
  • Feeling tired

Polio is dangerous and can have lethal consequences and this is the reason polio vaccine is advised by doctors.

Babies can get Infected with Polio Easily

Unfortunately, yes. Babies are at risk of getting infected by the poliovirus. The World Health Organisation claims that the age bracket with the most risk of getting infected by polio is children under five years. The immune system of a baby is weak. So, it can easily catch the virus from its surroundings if someone infected has been around. Poliovirus can also be transmitted via air droplets from a sneeze which can lead to virus traces on the hands and legs of the baby. So, you need to wash the baby’s hands and legs frequently and thoroughly.

baby taking polio drops

Prevention of Polio Through Polio Vaccine

As there is no treatment or cure for polio, the best way to not get infected is to prevent the infection. And you can prevent the poliovirus infection by getting vaccinated.

Sure, you can maintain proper hygiene, keep everything sanitized and isolate the baby. But none of those measures is full-proof or guarantees no polio infection in your baby.

But if your baby is fully vaccinated for polio, the immunity that it develops lasts for years to come. The baby is 99-100% immune to poliovirus if it is fully vaccinated.

Benefits of the Polio Vaccine

Polio can spread very fast via air (cough or sneeze by infected person) or physical contact. The vaccine is beneficial as it prevents the spread of the disease and protects the baby from the consequences of polio disease. These are the other benefits of the shot:

  • Polio can cause paralysis. It can also lead to weak muscles and delayed reflexes. Polio can also hamper the functioning of muscles of the respiratory system that can lead to breathing problems. The vaccine can easily prevent all this. It reduces the risk of infection considerably.
  • Getting your baby vaccinated helps check the spread of the disease in the community. Because polio can pass via heredity, the vaccine prevents the disease from affecting the next generation.

Types of Polio Vaccines

There are two types of vaccines -IPV and OPV. Both of them use attenuated polioviruses. But the way of injection is different. Let us see how:

IPV or Inactivated Polio Vaccine

  • It is intramuscularly injected, on the arm or the thigh.
  • IPV is the vaccine used in the United States.
  • It requires four doses to be fully effective,  which are given at two months, four months, six to eighteen months, and four to six years

Sometimes, the baby may get IPV in combination with other vaccines. If that is the case, the baby can get a fifth dose of the vaccine. It is completely safe.

baby getting IPV

 OPV or Oral Polio Vaccine

  • As the name suggests, the baby gets two drops of the vaccine in the mouth.
  • Developing nations, including India, use OPV.
  • The National Health Mission recommends five doses, which are given right after birth, at six weeks, at ten weeks, at sixteen weeks, and a booster dose between sixteen to twenty-four months.

baby receiving OPV

Side Effects of Different Polio Vaccines

For every vaccine, there are some adverse effects, even if they affect you negligibly. After getting a dose of IPV your baby may:

  • Feel soreness in the arm or the leg
  • Have some pain at the point of injection
  • Have mild body ache
  • Feel sleepy and tired
  • Faint after getting the vaccine

Rarely, for one in a million doses, a serious reaction occurs. And it shows up within a few minutes of getting vaccinated. So, in case it happens, you should immediately seek help from a nearby doctor. Also, if the side effects persist for more than a few days, you should get it checked with a doctor.

For OPV, the side effects are milder. OPV is one of the safest vaccines out there. The side effects are:

  • Fever
  • Lessened appetite
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue

OPV also can have a situation where the attenuated virus in the vaccine may mutate and become active. In that case, you should immediately seek help from the doctor if you see these symptoms as, in case of a delay, the baby may get infected by polio.

baby having fever after taking vaccine

This is When You Can Avoid or Delay the Polio Vaccine

If the baby had severe allergies due to the first dose of the polio vaccine, then you should avoid the remaining doses. Your doctor would also recommend you the same after examining the allergy.

If your baby is allergic to the below-mentioned antibiotics, even then you should avoid the vaccine:

  • Neomycin
  • Polymyxin B
  • Streptomycin

If the baby is ill, has a mild fever, cough, or cold, you should consider delaying the vaccine. Babies are weak, and they need attention for the most common of illnesses. Because the vaccine has side effects, it is better to wait until the baby recovers and is fully healthy.

Age Limit for the Vaccine

Adults do not need the polio vaccine as they are already vaccinated in childhood. CDC recommends not to have the first dose of polio beyond five years of age. But, you can get the booster dose between four to six years of age.

It is highly advised to get your baby vaccinated against polio to give them a good life, protected against the disease.

Read Also: Pneumococcal Vaccine For Babies

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