Polio vaccine: When will children be offered the jab?

The NHS will launch a vaccine drive for one to 11-year-olds in London after Easter

Stock photo showing close-up view of polio vaccine
Children in London aged one to 11 will be offered the polio vaccine. (Getty)

What's happening? Polio vaccines will be offered to children in London this summer to stop the spread of the disease.

Vaccine uptake is still too low in parts of the capital, health officials said after traces of the poliovirus were found in sewage samples last year.

Children aged one to 11 will receive jabs as part of the NHS campaign. Here's everything you need to know about the vaccine:

What is polio?

Polio is a rare disease that has caused death or life-long paralysis in extreme cases.

The disease, which is caused by the poliovirus, spreads through bodily fluids. It mainly affects children under the age of five, although it can also impact unvaccinated adults.

Symptoms include a high temperature, extreme fatigue, headaches, vomiting, neck stiffness and muscle pain.

Read more:

The UK was rocked by a series of polio epidemics in the early 1950s that ended with the introduction of a vaccine in 1962.

Europe was declared polio free in 2003, due to the success of the vaccine. The disease is now primarily found in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

A general view of staff on a NHS hospital ward at Ealing Hospital in London
Polio was officially eradicated in the UK in 2003. (PA Images via Getty Images)

However, health officials warned last year that there had been "some transmission" of the virus in London after detecting poliovirus in sewage samples.

There have since been fewer poliovirus detections in the capital, but the UK Health Security Agency has said more children still need to be vaccinated.

When is the polio vaccine catch-up campaign?

The NHS in London will deliver a catch-up campaign to unvaccinated or partially vaccinated children aged one to 11 during the summer term.

Pupils will be offered polio jabs and other routine childhood vaccines such as measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).

Some 87.6% of children in London receive all their polio vaccinations by the time they turn one, compared to 92.1% in England as a whole.

Uptake for the pre-school booster for children aged five is even lower at 69.9% in London compared to 83.4% in England.

The World Health Organisation requires evidence of 12 months of zero detections before the UK is no longer considered to be a polio "infected" country.

Graphic showing children who have not received DTaP/IPV pre-school booster
Health officials have raised concerns about low vaccine rates in London. (PA)

Dr Vanessa Saliba, consultant epidemiologist at the UKHSA, said: "While there are early signs of reduced spread of the poliovirus in London, we need to continue to improve uptake of childhood vaccines in all communities.

"Until we reach every last child, we cannot be sure that we will not see a case of paralysis.

"Even a single case of paralysis from polio would be a tragedy as it is completely preventable.

"Only by improving vaccination coverage across all communities can we ensure resilience against future disease threats."

Jane Clegg, chief NHS nurse in London, added: "We urge all parents in London to check their child’s red book or contact their GP practice to get up to date with their polio vaccination schedule.

"In addition, from the summer term, polio vaccination will be offered through primary school and community clinics for one to 11-year-olds."