Polio vaccine

The vaccine prevents the disease with paralysis symptoms caused by the polio virus.
Vaccine-preventable diseases

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To whom is the polio vaccine administered?

The polio vaccine is part of the national vaccination programme and free for all. Protection against polio is usually a component in the 5-in-1 vaccination series (DTaP-IPV-Hib).

An IPV polio vaccine on its own is recommended for

  • children and adults who are protected against diphtheria and tetanus but who have insufficient or no protection against polio
  • persons who have insufficient or no protection against polio and to whom a combination product cannot be administered
  • as a booster for persons travelling to countries where polio occurs
  • as a booster for persons arriving in Finland after staying over four weeks in a country where polio occurs 

Which vaccine is used and what does it contain?

The product used in the national vaccination programme is called Imovax Polio.

  • The vaccine does not contain live pathogens.
  • The active substance contains three types of whole, inactivated polio viruses.
  • The excipients are sugar, salts, amino acids, vitamins and purified water.
  • The vaccine contains no adjuvants.
  • The vaccine contains a small amount of phenoxyethanol as a preservative.
  • It also contains traces of formaldehyde residues.

A virulent poliovirus may circulate in the population for an extended period without causing an infection with paralysis symptoms. As the injectable inactivated polio vaccine does not protect the system effectively from a polio infection, a vaccine recipient may spread the polio virus while being personally protected from the disease with paralysis symptoms.

Attenuated live virus polio vaccine (OPV) administered orally is not currently used in Finland.

Dosage and schedule

A single dose of the IPV vaccine is 0.5 ml.

If the polio vaccinations have not been administered following the schedule of the national vaccination programme, the following should be noted in the context of building permanent basic protection:

  • If a child’s vaccinations have been started before their first birthday, a total of four doses will be needed. Two of these must be administered after the child’s first birthday.
  • If the series of vaccinations is started at the age of one year or later, three doses at the intervals of 0, 2 and 6 months are enough.

Boosters are not normally needed after the primary series.

What are the contraindications and precautions associated with the polio vaccine? 

The vaccine may not be administered to a person who has had a confirmed anaphylactic reaction

  • previously to a polio vaccine
  • to another vaccine containing the same ingredients.

Do not administer a polio vaccination to a child who has a fever or febrile illness; in this case the vaccination should be postponed.

Polio vaccine products do not contain significant antibiotic residues, and those allergic to antibiotics can thus be vaccinated normally. A formaldehyde allergy is usually also not a contraindication for the polio vaccination.

What are the benefits of polio vaccinations?

Polio vaccinations afford good protection against the disease with paralysis symptoms. Extensive vaccination programmes will be needed globally for as long as polio occurs in some areas.

The World Health Organization (WHO) launched a programme to eradicate polio in 1988. Thanks to widespread polio vaccinations, the wild polio virus and the disease with paralysis symptoms caused by it have disappeared in most countries and continents.

What are the potential adverse effects of the polio vaccine?

The polio vaccines used in Finland do not contain live pathogens. They cannot cause polio symptoms.

The most common adverse effect is a local reaction. Fever, other transient generalised symptoms and a rash may also occur. These symptoms usually begin within a few days of administration and go on for some days. 

Local symptoms are not a contraindication for further vaccinations. Skin reactions are also usually not an obstacle to further vaccinations. Fever and pain medications may be used to treat local symptoms at the injection site, aches and pains, and fever.

History of the polio vaccine

The polio vaccine was introduced in the national vaccination programme in 1957, in which year it was administered to those born in or after 1940 at child health clinics and schools.