UK to roll out polio booster vax for children under 10



Photo: IANS

UK health officials are set to offer a targeted inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) booster dose to all children between the ages of 1 and 9 years to limit the spread of the virus' outbreak in London.

This followed the discovery of Type 2 vaccine-derived poliovirus in sewage in north and east London.

According to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), 116 samples of vaccine-like poliovirus have been detected in the sewage water in London between February and July 2022.

While most are vaccine-like virus, only a few have sufficient mutations to be classified as vaccine derived poliovirus (VDPV2). But the VDPV2, like "wild" polio, is capable of causing paralysis in unvaccinated individuals, the UKHSA said.

The National Health Service aims to complete the rollout of the booster dose within the next four to six weeks in Barnet, Brent, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Islington, Waltham Forest - the areas in London where the poliovirus is being transmitted.

"These have some of the lowest vaccination rates, which 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, in a statement.

But so far, "no cases of polio have been reported and for the majority of the population, who are fully vaccinated, the risk is low," Saliba said.

Polio shots are given in routine National Health Service (NHS) childhood vaccinations at eight, 12 and 16 weeks as part of the 6-in-1 vaccine. Boosters are offered at the age of three and 14.

"While the majority of Londoners are protected from polio, the NHS will shortly be contacting parents of eligible children aged one to nine 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.

A viral disease that can affect the nervous system and cause muscle weakness, the polio virus typically enters the body through the mouth, usually from hands contaminated with faecal matter of an infected person. Respiratory and oral-to-oral transmission through saliva may also occur.

Polio is very contagious, and a person can spread the virus even if they are not sick. Symptoms, which can be mild and flu-like (fatigue, fever, headache, stiffness, muscle pain, vomiting), can take up to 30 days to appear, during which, an infected individual can be shedding virus to others. Though rare, some polio cases can result in paralysis or death.

The last case of wild polio contracted in the UK was confirmed in 1984 and the UK was declared free of the virus in 2003. Afghanistan and Pakistan are the only two countries in the world where the infection is still classified as endemic. - IANS

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