The polio immunization, or vaccine, is an injection that protects against the poliomyelitis disease, also called polio. In the United States, most people receive this vaccination at a young age. It contains dead viral matter. It is also referred to as an inactivated polio vaccine, or an IPV. This means that a patient receiving the shot cannot become sick with an active virus.
All vaccines work by stimulating the body's immune system. Antibodies are produced in response to the introduction of viral matter. These antibodies are specifically made to fight a certain kind of disease, like polio. Once the body has these cells, an immunity to that disease is acquired.
A polio immunization is typically administered in a series of four shots. It is recommended that children receive a first dose no earlier than six weeks of age, but ideally at around two months. The second dose is then given at four months of age, and the third between six to 18 months of age. Assuming this schedule is followed, the fourth shot is usually administered when the child is four to six years old. If the fourth injection is delayed until after that time frame, it is considered unnecessary.
Adults who had only the first one or two doses when young may receive the remaining injections later in life. The additional time lapse between doses does not interfere with their efficacy. Experts recommended that adults complete the full course of shots, especially if they are traveling to areas where polio is common. Healthcare and lab workers should also receive the rest of the injections.
If possible, women who are pregnant should delay polio immunization until after they give birth. Pregnant women who are at a heightened risk for contracting polio may receive the injections, however. The vaccine is safe for women who are breastfeeding.
Some patients may experience mild side effects from the vaccine. Like any shot, it may cause redness and soreness at the area of injection site. Allergic reactions rarely occur, although they are possible. Patients who experience respiratory difficulties, tightness in the chest, or hives should seek emergency medical help.
People who have previously experienced an allergic reaction to the polio immunization should not receive further doses. Neither should patients who have had allergic reactions to neomycin, streptomycin, or polymyxin B. Those who are ill should only receive the injection after they have recovered.