Blog: “I am one of the last people to have been affected by polio in the UK”
With Liverpool families being urged to check that their children are up to date with routine vaccinations, Councillor Pam Thomas, lead for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion shares her first-hand experience of contracting polio as a child and the lasting impact it’s had on her life.
“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 one year old and had just starting to walk. I was very ill and was in Fazakerley isolation hospital for several months, my parents were not allowed to visit me – other than to stand outside the room and look through the window.
My parents were told I would never walk again. My legs remained paralysed, however with two metal braces I learnt to walk a bit. I could not walk as fast as other children, I could not run, climb, jump or skip and would easily fall over. I spent a great deal of time in Alder Hey hospital undergoing surgery and spending months with my legs in traction.
To this day my legs are still paralysed, with age I have been less able to walk, 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 – which is why we don’t hear much about it. However, there are still children and adults who have not been immunised and this has prevented polio being eliminated.
There is still a real risk for those not immunised and so it is vital that children receive the vaccine to prevent them contracting the disease.”
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 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.
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)