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All children aged one to nine in London to be offered polio vaccine

Published on 11/08/22 at 09:34am

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised that a targeted inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) booster be given to all children between the ages of one and nine in all London boroughs. This announcement comes after type 2 vaccine-derived poliovirus was discovered in sewage in north and east London. 

 

The UK Health Secretary Steve Barclay said that, since early February, 116 polioviruses have been identified in 19 sewage samples from boroughs in north-east and central London. However, currently no cases of polio, or the related paralysis, have been reported.

 

The last case of polio in the UK was in 1984, and the success of keeping it at bay comes from high vaccination rates. However, since the boroughs where the poliovirus is being transmitted have some of the lowest vaccination rates, public health officials are urging parents to get their children vaccinated when they are offered one by their GP.

 

Dr Vanessa Saliba, Consultant Epidemiologist at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), stated: “It is vital parents ensure their children are fully vaccinated for their age,” following with, “It will ensure a high level of protection from paralysis. This may also help stop the virus spreading further.”

 

Vaccine-derived polio is caused by a weakened form of polio, which comes from the faeces of an individual recently vaccinated with live oral polio vaccine (OPV). OPV was used in the UK until 2004, where it was rejected in favour of IPV, due to the potential for transmission of the weakened polio.

 

While not necessarily dangerous by itself, the weakened polio has the capacity to mutate into vaccine-derived polio, which has the potential to cause paralysis.

 

Public health officials have said this recent discovery of vaccine-derived polio was likely caused by such an individual entering the UK, due to the apparently asymptomatic nature of its transmission.

 

Sewage surveillance to track the spread of the poliovirus is also being increased, with another 15 sites across London, and a similar amount around the UK, to begin sewage sampling this month.

James Spargo

 

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