How Long Does Polio Vaccine Protect You? Can You Get a Booster? What You Should Know

Only one kind of polio vaccine has been used in the U.S. since 2000. Two doses of it provide 90% protection against all three types of polio virus, while three doses show at least 99% immunity, the CDC says. There is one lifetime booster option but it's only recommended for adults at increased exposure risk

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What to Know

  • New York has one confirmed polio case but health officials say wastewater surveillance indicates there may be hundreds of people infected. The U.S. hasn't seen a naturally occurring polio case since 1979
  • Only one vaccine has been used in U.S. since 2000 -- the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV); two doses provide 90% immunity to all three types of poliovirus, while three doses provide at least 99% immunity, the CDC says
  • The Rockland County patient had a polio strain derived from a live-vaccine that would have been administered outside the United States, and now community spread appears underway locally in unvaccinated communities

New York health officials are sounding the alarm on another deadly viral threat -- one declared eradicated in the United States more than 40 years ago that now appears to be spreading in the community. Two weeks after reporting its first polio case in nearly a decade, the state says there could be "hundreds" of people infected with the once-dreaded childhood virus.

With the word "vaccination" entrenched in our collective forefronts amid the COVID pandemic and now the monkeypox outbreak, many are trying to make sure they're protected against this latest seemingly renewed scourge.

So far there's only been one confirmed case of the polio virus in New York -- it was in an unvaccinated Rockland County patient with no recent history of travel outside the country, officials said. But now wastewater samples detect polio elsewhere in the Hudson Valley, and CDC data links the New York samples to recent environmental tests in both Israel and England.

While most Americans are vaccinated against polio, experts say the case should serve as a wake-up call to those who aren't.

Even though the Rockland patient wasn't vaccinated, the patient had a vaccine-derived strain of polio, possibly contracted from someone who had received a live or oral polio vaccine (OPV). The United States hasn't administered those since 2000 and only uses the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV), which is the one recommended by the CDC.

“This isn’t normal. We don’t want to see this," Jennifer Nuzzo, a Brown University pandemic researcher, recently told the Associated Press about the New York case. "If you’re vaccinated, it’s not something you need to worry about. But if you haven’t gotten your kids vaccinated, it’s really important that you make sure they’re up to date.”

So what should you know about the schedule? Here's what the CDC says for U.S. children and adults.

CDC Polio Vaccine Guidance

All U.S. children should get four total IPV doses. One dose should be administered at each of the following ages or within the ranges: 2 months, 4 months, 6-18 months, 4-6 years. Kids traveling to a country where polio risk is higher than it is here should be fully vaccinated before leaving. The CDC has alternative options if there isn't enough time.

Most adults don't need polio vaccine because they already had it when they were kids. But the CDC says some adults are at higher risk -- those who travel to high polio-risk areas, work in labs and handle specimens that might contain polioviruses and healthcare workers treating patients who could have polio or be close contacts of those infected.

Adults in applicable situations should get three doses of IPV, the CDC says. Adults at increased exposure risk who have already completed their routine polio vaccination series can receive one lifetime booster dose of IPV, according to the CDC.

The IPV that has been used in the United States since 1987 is as effective as OPV for preventing polio, the CDC says. Two doses of IPV provide 90% immunity to all three types of poliovirus, while three doses provide at least 99% immunity, the agency says.

Rockland County Executive Ed Day said the county was now working to vaccinate people and see if there were any other cases.
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