Polio Vaccine: Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

Polio vaccine

Here are some best answers to most frequently asked questions regarding Polio / Polio vaccine (answered by top health professionals). Ask your healthcare provider if you have additional questions.

What is Polio?

According to World Health Organization, “Polio is a highly infectious viral disease caused by a virus that mainly affects children under five years of age. It invades the nervous system, and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. Among those paralyzed, 5% to 10% die when their breathing muscles become immobilized.”

How can Polio be Prevented?

This infectious disease can be prevented by doing the following:

  • Immunization with vaccine is the only way to prevent Polio.
  • The vaccine used in in most countries of the world to prevent polio is called Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV). Two drops are given with a dropper directly into the mouth.
  • Polio vaccine, given multiple times, can protect a child for life.
  • When every child is vaccinated multiple times and protected, the polio virus cannot easily spread and the virus can be stopped.
  • The only way to prevent polio in future generations is to ensure every child under five is fully immunized, this will eradicate the disease.

Oral polio vaccine

Where can my family access Oral Polio Vaccine?

Note: The vaccine is free, and is available;

  1. At health clinics, during routine immunization sessions, where babies should receive four doses (at birth, at 6 weeks, 10 weeks and 14 weeks).
  2. During Polio campaigns called “immunization Plus Days” or IPDs, when every child under five should be vaccinated every time, at home school, mosque, church, playground, on the street and everywhere.

Where is Polio Found?

Before the availability of Polio immunization, Polio was common in almost every country in the world. However, with strong immunization programmes and efforts to rid the world of polio, circulation of polio viruses is now limited to only a few countries. Nigeria is the only country in Africa, and one of just four countries in the world that is polio endemic today.

Who is at risk of Polio?

Children under five (5) years of age who are not fully vaccinated are most at risk of Polio infection.

How can you get Polio and what are the symptoms?

The poliovirus is spreads silently in communities. It enters the body through the mouth, usually from hands con terminated with the stool of an infected person. Objects conterminated with poliovirus, such as eating utensils, can also spread the virus. Early symptoms of polio virus include fever, headache, vomiting, fatigue, stiffness in the neck and pain in the limbs. More serious problems happen when the virus invades nerves in the brain and causes paralysis of the muscle used in swallowing and breathing. Invasion of the nerves in the spinal cord can cause paralysis of the arms, legs, or trunk.

Why does Polio continue to spread in Nigeria?

Children continue to be crippled by poliovirus in Nigeria because many children are still not being reached every time with oral polio vaccine. For every one paralyzed child, 200 children may have the virus. Therefore children who the polio virus, and are silently spreading it through their stools. The only way to eliminate Polio is to ensure that all children aged zero to five years are immunized during every campaign (immunization plus days) and during routine immunization at the health centre.

Is the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) safe for children? Is it safe even if a child is sick?

Yes. OPV is the safest and most effective way to protect Nigerian children from Polio. It’s the same vaccine given to millions of children in many countries. The oral polio vaccine is recommended by doctors all over the world and accepted by all stakeholders, including our traditional and religious leaders. It is absolutely safe, and it’s especially important to give opv to children who may be at risk with another illness, to boost their immunity.

Why are there so many rounds of Immunization Plus Days in Nigeria? Do children need to receive OPV over and over again even if they have been immunized in the past?

The more doses of oral polio vaccine your child receives, the stronger the protection. Multiple campaigns are necessary because there are new babies being born every day in Nigeria who may not be vaccinated at the health facility, and because too many children under five are missed during polio campaigns. Vaccination teams will continue to come to your house during IPDs to vaccinate your children until the virus no longer exists in Nigeria and there is no more threat from polio.

Why Polio, when there are so many other important diseases that affect many more Nigerians, such as malaria?

Polio is a communicable disease which spreads quickly and silently from person to person. It’s one of the only known diseases which can be eradicated from earth through vaccination (like smallpox). Once it is eradicated, Nigerian children and children in every country of the world will be free from the disease forever.

For polio there is no cure. Children who are paralyzed will be crippled for life. This will have a life long effect on their well-being and that of their families.

The government is also taking other diseases, such as malaria, very seriously. There are efforts, for example, to distribute insecticide treated bed nets to families regularly. It’s important to remember that malaria can be treated, whereas polio cannot.

Why do polio vaccinators come directly to people’s homes?

The only way to protect all children against polio forever is to ensure that every child under five recieves the polio vaccine multiple times.

Polio vaccinators are coming directly to people’s homes in order to ensure every child under five is reached multiple times with polio vaccine. They know that it’s not always possible for parents to have their children vaccinated at the health facility.

Vaccination teams are also stationed at fixed places, and in busy places such as markets, places of worship and schools to reach every child. This strategy has been successfully used to stop polio completely in many countries in the world.

In our tradition, we do not bring newborns out of the house or give them anything for several weeks until after outdooring or naming ceremony. Does a newborn need the polio vaccine?

Well said, your tradition is very important to all of Nigeria. So also, is the health of your newborn baby. There’s no conflict between tradition and immunization. A baby must receive the first polio vaccine at birth along with other vaccines in the first weeks. This will protect your newborn against polio and will also give them immunity against other diseases. If your baby was not delivered at a health centre or hospital, you should take your baby to the neatest health centre and ensure that your child is immunized. These immunizations will protect your baby’s life.

Is Polio eradication in Nigeria possible?

YES. In fact Nigeria has made a lot progress in reducing the number of Polio cases in the country. More than ever before, the Federal Government, State Government, Traditional and Religious Leaders and other Partners are committed to stopping Polio completely in Nigeria.

There has been dramatic reduction in polio cases in Nigeria in the last 8 years, with cases more than halved between 2008 and 2009. In fact, the most virulent of the polioviruses, known as Type 1 cases were reduced by 90%. Achieving this feat made possible by the commitment of all stakeholders especially the governors and traditional leaders.

To sustain this success and achieve the target of Polio eradication will require the full participation of everybody. It will require multiple, high quality rounds of Immunization Plus Days campaigns that reach more than 90% of children under five in all rural areas (villages).

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