Have your children had their polio vaccinations?

With an urgent polio vaccine booster programme being rolled out for London children– the key message for Liverpool families is to check if your child is up to date with their routine vaccinations.

You can check their Red Book and contact your GP practice to catch up if needed – as soon as possible.

The poliovirus has been detected in London sewage and is spreading in some communities where vaccination rates are very low. No cases of polio have been reported and, for the majority of the population, who are fully vaccinated, the risk is low. Residents who are not fully vaccinated are at greater risk.

Polio is a serious infection that can cause paralysis. The last case of polio in the UK was in 1984. Historically, up to 8,000 people per year would develop paralysis in the UK before polio vaccination was introduced.

It is vital that families ensure their children are fully vaccinated for their age. Protection from polio is included in the 6-in-1 vaccine which is given to babies at 8, 12 and 16 weeks old. A booster of the polio vaccine is also given before children start school and as part of their teenage booster when they are 14.

Most people in Liverpool are protected against polio. Some children have missed out on their routine vaccinations because of the Covid pandemic.  Latest figures (2020/2021) for Liverpool show that uptake of the routine 6-in-1 vaccine for babies is now at 88% – much lower than the national average of 92%. Remember, it’s never too late to catch up.

Councillor Pam Thomas is lead for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and also has first-hand experience of this horrible disease after contracting polio as a child.

I am one of the last people to have been affected by polio in the UK, I contracted it just as the polio immunisation was being introduced – but it was not yet available to me.

I was very ill and my parents were told I would never walk again. To this day my legs are still paralysed, and I have used a wheelchair for the past 25 years – meaning I also deal with everyday discrimination against disabled people.

There is no cure for polio, but it can be prevented by immunisation, so it is vital that children receive the vaccine to prevent them contracting the disease.”

Director of Public Health for Liverpool, Professor Matthew Ashton said “Most people in Liverpool are protected against polio from vaccination in childhood, but some children may have missed out on getting vaccinated due to the disruption caused by the pandemic, or because of a belief that polio had gone away forever.”

Families should look at their child’s personal child health record (PCHR) – which is also known as the “Red Book” to check if they have had the vaccines they need. “

If children or adults need to catch-up with any vaccinations, including polio, please contact your GP practice to book an appointment – it’s never too late to get protected from potentially serious illnesses.

Over the summer holidays, there are also some special catch-up clinics for Liverpool secondary school-aged children from year 8 upwards. Contact the school age immunisation team to make an appointment or check your child’s immunisation status. Visit www.merseycare.nhs.uk/imms

For more information about polio, visit Polio – NHS (www.nhs.uk)

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