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An old photograph of several polio patients in iron lungs.

Courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

What is Polio?

Polio is a contagious disease caused by an intestinal virus that may attack the nerve cells of the brain and spinal cord, causing muscle weakness and paralysis.  If the virus attacks the part of the spinal cord that controls respiration, death can occur.  Most cases are transmitted like the common cold or an intestinal flu. Most people who acquire it don’t show any symptoms. Some have a minor sore throat and fever, but they don’t know they have the polio virus, and these cases pass without any treatment. [1,2,3] Back to Top

How is Polio Contracted?

There are two types of polio

  1. Wild Polio (WPV): can spread through contact with contaminated feces (baby exploring world through hands and mouth, changing an infected baby’s diapers) or through airborne droplets in food, or in water. The virus enters the body through nose or mouth, then travels to the intestines where it incubates.  It then enters the bloodstream where “anti-polio” antibodies are produced.  In most cases, this stops progression of the virus and the individual gains permanent immunity against the disease. [4] Muscular paralysis has been estimated to occur in 1 of every 1,000 people who contract the disease. [5]
  2. Vaccine-derived Polio Virus (VDPV): contracted same way that wild polio is contracted, only the source of the virus comes from the oral polio vaccine (OPV)… Yes, we are vaccinating against polio and causing polio outbreaks.

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Polio Symptoms


  • Approximately 72% of persons infected with polio will have no symptoms (lifetime immunity thereafter).


  • About 24% of infected persons have minor symptoms, such as fever, fatigue, nausea, headache, flu-like symptoms, stiffness in the neck and back, and pain in the limbs, which often resolve completely (lifetime immunity thereafter).


  • Fewer than 1% of polio cases result in permanent paralysis of the limbs (usually the legs). Of those paralyzed, 5-10% die when the paralysis strikes the respiratory muscles. The death rate increases with increasing age.

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Where in the World is Polio?

If you have not vaccinated your child(ren) against polio and plan to travel out of the United States, or if you are curious about polio outbreaks today, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative has a website with weekly statistics of polio outbreaks, both wild polio and vaccine-derived polio cases.

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When is the Polio Vaccine Given?

  • The polio vaccine is given at two months, four months, 18 months, and 5 years.
  • For more information, please see Vaccine Schedules

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Efficacy of the Polio Vaccine

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How Long Does Polio Vaccine Protection Last?

  •  Duration of immunity is not known with certainty. [9]

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Ingredients in the Polio Vaccine

The final polio vaccine contains [2]:

  • Three inactivated virus strains
  • M-199 culture medium added at the end of the process to dilute the virus
  • 2-phenoxyethanol— about 0.5 percent
  • Formaldehyde— 100 micrograms
  • Residual amounts of three antibiotics
  • Traces of the calf serum, left over in the vaccine solution— 1 part per million

Controversial Ingredients in the Polio Vaccine

  • Baby cow blood serum
  • Human albumin (blood proteins)
  • Glutamate (a component of MSG)
  • Formaldehyde and 2-phenoxyethanol
  • Monkey kidney cells

If you would like specific information regarding each ingredient, including studies:

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Polio Vaccine FDA Package Inserts

*Studies have shown a diminished antibody response to B. pertussis antigens when poliovirus vaccine was administered with DTP. The data are also similar to the findings of a number of earlier studies that consistently demonstrated a trend toward lower values of agglutinins to B. pertussis when IPV was combined with DTP. [7]

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Controversy and the Polio Vaccine

But perhaps the biggest bump in the road has been the emergence of circulating vaccine-derived polioviruses (cVDPVs), genetically unstable Sabin-strain viruses that revert toward the genotypic and phenotypic profile of the virulent parent strain as they circulate for extended periods in a population with low immunity levels.

In 1960, it was discovered that Simian Virus 40 (SV40) contaminated up to 30% of the poliovirus vaccines in the US. This contamination arose because the vaccines were produced in monkey kidney cell cultures harboring SV40 between 1955 and 1963. During this period, approximately 90% of children and 60% of adults in the USA were inoculated for polio and possibly exposed to SV40. Many epidemiologic and molecular pathogenesis studies have been conducted in order to identify potential cancer risks since this ‘natural’ experiment began. Productive SV40 infection has the potential to initiate malignancy in a variety of target tissues.

  • The CDC states that polio has been basically eradicated from the United States, however many experts feel that the disease name, polio, has just been replaced by the name, “meningitis:”

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Polio Vaccine Reactions

Signs to look for include:

  • Local reactions are uncommon, with only about 10 percent of kids showing redness or swelling. Systemic reactions are less common than most other vaccines.
  • All adverse reactions should also be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS).

Known Severe Reactions:

Postmarketing Surveillance:

(common reactions noted after the release of the vaccine) [10]

  • Blood and lymphatic system disorders: lymphadenopathy
  • General disorders and administration site conditions: agitation, injection site reaction including injection site rash and mass
  • Immune system disorders: type I hypersensitivity including allergic reaction, anaphylactic reaction, and anaphylactic shock
  • Musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorders: arthralgia, myalgia
  • Nervous system disorders: convulsion, febrile convulsion, headache, paresthesia, and somnolence
  • Skin and subcutaneous tissue disorders: rash, urticaria

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The Bottom Line and the Polio Vaccine

  • Studies have shown a diminished antibody response to B. pertussis antigens when poliovirus vaccine was administered with DTP. The data are also similar to the findings of a number of earlier studies that consistently demonstrated a trend toward lower values of agglutinins to B. pertussis when IPV was combined with DTP. [7]

The CDC recommends that anyone who meets the following criteria should either not get IPV or should wait:

  • Anyone who has ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to neomycin, streptomycin, or polymyxin B.
  • Anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to a previous polio vaccine dose.
  • Anyone who is moderately or severely ill when the shot is scheduled should wait until they have recovered.

The CDC recommends that anyone who meets the following criteria should not get the OPV. Now that this vaccine is used in only very limited situations, these recommendations apply to a small number of people.

  • Anyone who is taking long-term steroids or any other drug that affects the immune system.
  • Anyone who has AIDS, HIV infection, or any other immune system disease.
  • Anyone who has cancer or is getting chemotherapy.
  • Anyone in the previous three groups who changes an infant’s diapers or who has close contact with a child who is getting polio vaccine, that child should not get OPV.
  • Anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of OPV.
  • Infants should not get OPV if anyone who will be in close contact with them has never had any polio vaccine.
  • Anyone who is moderately or severely ill at the time the dose is scheduled should wait until they have recovered to receive the dose.

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Cave, Stephanie; Mitchell, Deborah (2007-11-01). What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About(TM) Children’s Vaccinations (What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About…). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Sears, Robert W. (2011-10-26). The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child (Sears Parenting Library). Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition.

Eisenstein, Mayer, MD, JD, MPH. Make an Informed Vaccine Decision For the Health of Your Child: A Parent’s Guide to Childhood Shots. New Atlantean Press, 2010.

Sanofi Pasteur. “IPOL (Poliovirus Vaccine Inactivated).” Product insert from the vaccine manufacturer. December 2005.

Effect of Inactivated Poliovirus Vaccine on the Antibody Response to Bordetella pertussis Antigens When Combined with Diphtheria-Pertussis-Tetanus Vaccine

Dr. Mary’s Monkey: How the Unsolved Murder of a Doctor, a Secret Laboratory in New Orleans and Cancer-Causing Monkey Viruses are Linked to Lee Harvey Oswald, … Assassination and Emerging Global Epidemics

Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases, 12th Edition (The Pink Book)  (web version)

IPOL FDA Package Insert

Global Polio Eradication Initiative

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Studies/ Reviews

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Reviewed/Updated: 07/19
Content Created: 06/14


Vaccine Strategy Guide - Dr. Green Mom
Dr. Green Mom

Dr. Mayer is a naturopathic medical doctor and an expert in nutrition and wellness as it relates to pediatrics and families. Her passion for prevention of disease as cure fueled her desire to immerse herself into specializing in adult onset chronic conditions, as well as childhood chronic illness.

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