The JCVI has recommended that polio vaccine booster doses should be offered to children across London, after the virus was detected in sewage.
Nationally the overall risk of paralytic polio is considered low because most people are protected from this by vaccination. Many countries globally provide an additional dose of polio-containing vaccine as part of their childhood vaccination schedule. The NHS in London will contact parents when it’s their child’s turn to come forward for a booster or catch-up polio dose – parents should take up the offer as soon as possible.
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‘No cases of polio have been reported and for the majority of the population, who are fully vaccinated, the risk is low. But we know the areas in London where the poliovirus is being transmitted have some of the lowest vaccination rates. This is why the virus is spreading in these communities and puts those residents not fully vaccinated at greater risk,’ said Dr Vanessa Saliba, Consultant Epidemiologist at UKHSA.
‘Polio is a serious infection that can cause paralysis but nationally the overall risk is considered low because most people are protected by vaccination. The last case of polio in the UK was in 1984, but decades ago before we introduced the polio vaccination programme around 8,000 people would develop paralysis every year.’
The programme will start with the areas affected, where the poliovirus has been detected and vaccination rates are low. This will be followed by rapid rollout across all boroughs.
This booster dose will be in addition to the NHS childhood vaccination catch-up campaign across London, where childhood vaccination uptake is lower than the rest of the country
‘While the majority of Londoners are protected from polio, the NHS will shortly be contacting parents of eligible children aged 1 to 9 years old to offer them a top-up dose to ensure they have maximum protection from the virus,’ said Jane Clegg, Chief Nurse for the NHS in London.
‘We are already reaching out to parents and carers of children who aren’t up to date with their routine vaccinations, who can book a catch-up appointment with their GP surgery now and for anyone not sure of their child’s vaccination status, they can check their Red Book.’