Health Encyclopedia

Polio (Inactivated Polio Vaccine; IPV)

What is polio?

Poliomyelitis, also called polio, is a highly contagious infectious disease caused by three types of poliovirus. The poliovirus is a virus most recognized for its destruction to the nervous system causing paralysis. The majority of individuals who are infected with polio, however, have no symptoms and few have mild symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, of those persons that do acquire the infection, 1 percent or fewer may develop paralytic disease. Since the advent of the polio vaccine during the early 1950s, and a global effort to eradicate the disease, infections from the poliovirus have nearly been eradicated. However, despite an almost entirely successful global eradication effort, there have been international outbreaks of polio spreading from the few areas where the disease still existed, and in 2014, the World Health Organization declared a "public health emergency of international concern" regarding countries where polio still exists. New cases of polio have arisen in travelers from Pakistan, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Syria. In addition, the virus still exists in Afghanistan, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Israel, and Somalia.

What polio vaccine is recommended in the U.S.? 

Today, polio is extremely rare in the United States because of the use of the vaccine. However, it is still common in the countries mentioned above, and due to increased travel between countries, all children need to be immunized for protection from the disease. The type of polio vaccine recommended in the U.S. is called inactivated polio vaccine (IPV). This is an inactivated (killed) form of the virus is given through injection and provides a very safe way to give immunity to polio. Another form called oral polio vaccine (OPV) was given in years past. But the OPV was a live-form of the virus and had a small risk of causing polio. OPV is still given in other countries because it is more effective than IPV in preventing the spread of polio.

When is IPV given?

IPV is given to babies and children in four doses at ages:

  • 2 months

  • 4 months

  • Between 6 to 18 months

  • 4 to 6 years

  • "Catch-up doses" may be given to older children and adults, if needed. 

Children who are sick or have a fever should wait until they are well to receive the polio vaccine. Some children should not receive IPV. These include those who have ever had an allergic reaction to the antibiotic neomycin, streptomycin, or polymyxin B, and those who have had a previous reaction to the polio vaccine. Always consult your child's doctor regarding vaccines.

What are the risks from IPV?

A vaccine, like any medication, is capable of causing serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. However, the IPV is very safe and most people have no problems other than muscle soreness in the location where the shot was given.

How do I care for my child after immunization with IPV?

  • Give your child aspirin-free pain reliever, as directed by your child's doctor. Do not give aspirin.

  • An allergic reaction would most likely occur within a few minutes to a few hours of the shot. Signs may include difficulty breathing, swelling of the face and throat, wheezing, (squeaking sounds while breathing due to tight airways), weakness, rapid heart beat, hives, feeling dizzy, and paleness. Report these or any other unusual signs immediately to your child's doctor.



Medical Reviewers:

  • MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
  • Pierce-Smith, Daphne, RN, MSN, CCRC