What is the polio vaccine?
The polio vaccine protects against polio, a disease caused by infection with the poliovirus.
In young children, the polio vaccine is usually combined with other vaccines so that children can get protection against several diseases with fewer shots.
Who should get the polio vaccine?
The polio vaccine is recommended for all children. Some adults who are at increased risk of polio should also get the vaccine. There are many different vaccines used to prevent polio.
Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Hepatitis B, Polio and Haemophilus influenzae type b (DTaP-HB-IPV-Hib) Vaccine
- This vaccine is given to babies as a series of 3 doses at 2, 4, and 6 months of age. They should get this vaccine at the same time as other childhood immunizations.
- This vaccine is given to children as a booster dose at 18 months of age after completing a three-dose primary series of DTaP-HB-IPV-Hib.
- This vaccine is given as one dose to children 4-6 years of age. This is a booster dose for children who were immunized against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and polio at a younger age. The booster dose strengthens or boosts the immune system to give better protection against these diseases.
Routine polio immunization is not considered necessary for unimmunized adults in Canada unless they are at higher risk of exposure to wild polioviruses (through travel or work). This vaccine is mostly given as a booster dose to adults who had a series of polio vaccine in childhood and are at increased risk of exposure to the poliovirus (for example, through work or travel).
- People who have not been immunized and may be exposed to the poliovirus through work or travel should also get the vaccine.
- A series of this vaccine can also be given to infants and children who have already received protection from diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and Hib in other vaccines.
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What are the benefits of the vaccine?
The polio vaccine is the best way to protect against polio, a serious disease that sometimes causes death. When you or your child get vaccinated, you help protect others too.
What are the side effects?
Vaccines are very safe. It is much safer to get the vaccine than it is to get polio.
Many people have no side effects from these vaccines. For those that do, side effects are usually mild and last 1 to 2 days (see a list of common side effects for each vaccine below). Serious side effects are very rare.
It is important to stay in the clinic for 15 minutes after getting any vaccine because there is an extremely rare possibility of anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening allergic reaction. This may include hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the throat, tongue, or lips. The chance of true anaphylaxis is about 1 in 1 million vaccine doses. Should this reaction occur, your health care provider is prepared to treat it. Emergency treatment includes administration of epinephrine (adrenaline) and transfer by ambulance to the nearest emergency department. If symptoms develop after you leave the clinic, call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number. Learn more about anaphylaxis on our vaccine side effects page.
It is important to always report serious or unexpected reactions to your immunizing health care provider.
Common side effects may include soreness, redness, and swelling where the vaccine was given. Some children may have a fever or experience crankiness, restlessness, vomiting, diarrhea, persistent crying, or a loss of appetite. These reactions are mild and usually last 1 to 2 days.
Common side effects may include fever, and soreness, redness and swelling where the vaccine was given.
Where can I learn more?
- Click on the vaccine name above to read the HealthLink BC File.
- Talk to your immunizing health care provider.
- Polio is a disease caused by infection with the poliovirus.
- While most polio infections show no symptoms, others can result in paralysis of arms or legs and even death. Paralysis occurs in about 1 in 200 people infected with the poliovirus.
- Polio can be spread by contact with the bowel movements (stool/poop) of an infected person. This can happen from eating food or drinking water contaminated with stool.
- Thanks to the polio vaccine, polio has been eliminated in most parts of the world, including Canada. However, there are some countries where polio has not been eliminated or that experience outbreaks. It takes only one traveler with polio to bring the disease into Canada, and if people aren't immunized, it could spread quickly here. To keep Canada polio-free, we need to keep vaccinating against it until the disease is completely eliminated worldwide.