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Polio And MMR Vaccination – Why These Vaccination Are Important

Polio And MMR Vaccination – Why These Vaccination Are Important


What is Polio?

Polio is a viral infection that used to be common in Nigeria and worldwide. It’s rare nowadays because it can effectively be prevented with vaccination, but there are still some countries where polio circulation has not yet stopped due to the lack of access people have had on this life-saving vaccine.

There’s no cure for polio, so it’s important to make sure that you and your children are fully vaccinated against it.

Symptoms of polio

Most people with polio won’t have any symptoms and will fight off the infection without even realising they were infected.

A small number of people will experience a flu-like illness 3 to 21 days after they’re infected.

Symptoms can include:

  • a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above
  • a sore throat
  • a headache
  • abdominal (tummy) pain
  • aching muscles
  • feeling and being sick

These symptoms will usually pass within about a week.

In a small number of cases, the polio virus attacks the nerves in the spine and base of the brain. This can cause paralysis, usually in the legs, that develops over hours or days.

The paralysis isn’t usually permanent, and movement will often slowly return over the next few weeks and months.

But some people are left with persistent problems. If the breathing muscles are affected, it can be life-threatening.

Long-term problems caused by polio

Although polio often passes quickly without causing any other problems, it can sometimes lead to persistent or lifelong difficulties.

A few people with the infection will have some degree of permanent paralysis, and others may be left with problems that require long-term treatment and support.

These can include:

  • muscle weakness
  • shrinking of the muscles (atrophy)
  • tight joints (contractures)
  • deformities, such as twisted feet or legs

There’s also a chance that someone who’s had polio in the past will develop similar symptoms again, or worsening of their existing symptoms, many decades later. This is known as post-polio syndrome.

Polio vaccination

The polio vaccination is offered as part of the routine childhood vaccination program.

It’s given by injection in 5 separate doses. These are normally given at:

  • 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age – as part of the 6-in-1 vaccine
  • 3 years and 4 months of age – as part of the 4-in-1 (DTaP/IPV) pre-school booster
  • 14 years of age – as part of the 3-in-1 (Td/IPV) teenage booster

If you’re planning to travel to a polio-affected country, you should get vaccinated if you’ve not been fully vaccinated before, or have a booster dose if it’s been 10 years or more since your last dose of the vaccine.

MMR Vaccine

The MMR vaccine is a safe and effective combined vaccine.

It protects against 3 serious illnesses:

These highly infectious conditions can easily spread between unvaccinated people.

Getting vaccinated is important, as these conditions can also lead to serious problems including meningitis, hearing loss and problems during pregnancy.

2 doses of the MMR vaccine provide the best protection against measles, mumps and rubella.

MMR Vaccine Schedule:

Child’s age Vaccine
1 year MMR (1st dose)
3 years and 4 months MMR (2nd dose)

When older children and adults should have the MMR vaccine

Anyone who has not had 2 doses of the MMR vaccine should ask their doctor for a vaccination appointment.

It’s important to check you’ve had both doses if you:

  • are about to start college or university
  • are going to travel abroad
  • are planning a pregnancy
  • are a frontline health or social care worker
  • were born between 1970 and 1979, as you may have only been vaccinated against measles
  • were born between 1980 and 1990, as you may not be protected against mumps

If you need more information and advice, please speak to one of our pharmacists

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