Polio used to be very common in the United States and caused severe illness in thousands of people each year before polio vaccine was introduced in 1955. Most people infected with the polio virus have no symptoms, however for the less than one percent who develop paralysis (cannot move arms or legs) it may result in permanent disability and even death.
There are two types of vaccine that protect against polio: Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) and Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV). IPV, used in the United States since 2000, is given as an injection in the leg or arm, depending on age. OPV is taken by mouth. Polio vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines.
Most people should get polio vaccine when they are children. Children should be vaccinated with four doses of inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) at the following ages:
- 1st dose: 2 months
- 2nd dose: 4 months
- 3rd dose: 6-18 months
- Booster dose: 4-6 years
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 health care 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 health care 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 three doses of IPV:
- 1st dose: Any time
- 2nd dose: 1 to 2 months after the first dose
- 3rd dose: 6 to 12 months after the second dose
Adults in these three groups who have had one or two doses of polio vaccine in the past should get the remaining one or two doses. It doesn’t matter how long it has been since the earlier dose(s).