Many people are unsure if they received polio vaccinations as children because the disease has recently made headlines. Fortunately, there’s a fair likelihood you were if you were raised in the United States.
Who is most likely to have had polio vaccinations?
To put it lightly, the polio vaccine has been a major issue ever since it was first created. With much hoopla, a trial of the Salk injectable polio vaccine was disclosed in 1955. Mass immunization drives quickly followed. A few years later, the oral Sabin vaccination gained approval and became extensively used.
Polio immunization became widespread for children in the United States and many other countries over the following few decades. Since 1980, 95% or more of one-year-olds in the U.S. have received the polio vaccine.
According to the CDC, the majority of adults (i.e., people over the age of 18) who live in the United States are likely immune to poliovirus due to prior, routine childhood immunization, and there is very little chance of exposure to poliovirus here.
What became of polio?
In the United States, polio last occurred naturally in 1979. Because of the success of vaccination, the World Health Organization established the target of eradicating polio in North and South America by 1990 in 1985. Although we fell short of the goal, both continents were declared polio-free in 1994. Polio is still being eradicated in other regions of the world, making it one of the very few illnesses that we genuinely have a possibility of doing so.
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Children are still given the polio vaccine nowadays. In contrast, smallpox vaccines ceased to be administered on a regular basis once the disease was wiped out worldwide (it is the only human disease we have managed to eradicate). They weren’t required anymore. Polio, however, still exists in some regions of the world, therefore this is not the case. We need at least 80-85% of the populace to be immune in order for the virus to be unable to spread if someone with polio were to enter the United States after contracting it somewhere else. Because of this, polio immunization is still recommended as part of the routine.
Today, a four-dose course of the injectable polio vaccine is administered as one of the required childhood vaccinations. The treatment begins at 2 months old and concludes around age 4. (The oral vaccine is no longer often administered in the United States, but if you can recall receiving a shot on a sugar cube, that was probably it. Here is further information on how the two vaccines differ from one another.)
How can I tell if I received a polio vaccination?
This is a query regarding your individual medical records because, regrettably, there isn’t a centralized immunization registry in the United States. There might be information in there regarding when and whether you received a polio vaccine if you’ve been diligent about updating your records when you switch from one doctor’s office to another. However, for the majority of us, that documentation is hidden away.
You could attempt to ask your parents. If you recall or can guess where it was, you can try requesting medical records from the doctor or hospital your family took you to. Since schools frequently need documentation of inoculation against a list of diseases, you can look through student records. Don’t count on your elementary school to still keep your records after all these years, but you might still have a folder with some old report cards and some health papers in it. Another place to search would be in your parents’ baby book, if they maintained one.
There is a vaccine register in several states. To see if there is a means to look up your information, the CDC advises contacting your local or state health department.
What if I’m unsure whether my polio vaccination is current?
You can still receive the vaccine if you are unsure of your vaccination status or if you only had some of the recommended shots. (Side note: Receiving an additional dosage of a vaccine is usually safe. Your doctor would typically advise you to get another shot if you need one but aren’t sure if you’ve already had it.)
If you are unsure of your vaccination status, the CDC advises that you receive a three-dose course of the polio vaccine. The advice is the same for those who have never received a vaccination.
You can complete the course even if you are aware that you only received a portion of your vaccine doses; the CDC website provides more details on how many shots you require and when they should be administered.
Finally, one booster dose—which is thought to be sufficient for lifetime protection—may be given if you were previously immunized but are now at “greater risk” of exposure and want to be absolutely certain you have the best protection possible. If you are likely to come into contact with the polio virus while working as a scientist or healthcare professional, traveling to a nation where polio is endemic, or if you have ever or are likely to have come into touch with someone who may have the disease, you are deemed to be at “greater risk.”
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