Polio, which was officially eradicated in the UK in 2003, can cause paralysis in rare cases and can be fatal. Public health officials have declared a national incident while the last traces are being investigated.
Polio is caused by a virus that spreads easily when an infected person coughs or sneezes, according to the NHS. It can also be picked up from food or water that has been in contact with the poop of someone who has the virus.
So far, it’s unclear how many people might be affected by the new outbreak, but being fully vaccinated will protect you. Here’s how to check that you (and your kids) are up to date with jabs.
When do people usually get the polio vaccine?
The polio vaccine is given in the NHS when the child is eight, 12 and 16 weeks old as part of the 6 in 1 vaccine. It is given again at three years and four months as part of the 4 in 1 pre-school booster (DTaP /IPV) and at age 14 as part of the 3 in 1 adolescent booster (Td/IPV). The vaccine for teenagers is routinely given in secondary schools.
All of these vaccines must have been given in order for a person to be fully vaccinated, although babies who have had two or three doses have substantial protection.
The latest figures show that by the age of two in the UK, almost 95% of children have received the correct number of doses. However, this drops to just under 90% in London. When it comes to pre-school booster, only 71% of children in London received it by the age of five.
How to check if you’ve had the polio vaccine
All immunization records are linked to your unique NHS number, which is assigned to you at birth.
You can view your complete health records (including your immunization history) via the NHS app or the NHS online portal if you are already registered for full online access.
You will need to register with your doctor’s office to gain online access and view your complete record. If you downloaded the NHS app just to see your Covid travel pass, for example, the basic profile only shows your vaccines, medications and Covid allergies – not your full medical history.
There is a portal on the NHS website that details further instructions on how to register to gain full online access to your records. But something to note: this service works alongside GP surgeries and is not yet available in all areas of the UK.
If you’re having trouble accessing your records online, or your surgery doesn’t offer this service, you’ll need to contact your GP to find out about your polio records via email or phone.
A polio vaccine will not be labeled ‘polio’
When you access your records, don’t panic: a polio vaccine is rarely labeled with the name ‘polio’.
On Twitter, GP and broadcaster Dr Ellie Cannon shared the labels to watch out for: