Parents of children aged one to nine in north east London are being urged to take up the offer of a polio booster vaccine to ensure their child is fully protected against the virus.
There are signs that polio is spreading in London. Boosters for children provide a high level of protection from paralysis and help reduce further spread of the virus, which can be passed on easily from person to person among those who are unvaccinated.
There has not been a live case of polio in the UK since 1984 and it is vital to prevent any community spread which could result in life-long paralysis and other disabilities, and in some cases, even death. There is no cure for polio: immunisation is the only protection.
All eligible children in London aged one to nine are being offered a polio vaccine booster dose. For some children this may be an extra dose of polio vaccine, on top of their routine vaccinations. In other children it may just bring them up to date.
In north east London, vaccinations are being offered as follows:
- All parents or guardians of children aged one to nine are being contacted by the NHS by letter or text asking them to book an appointment with their GP. They are urged to take up the offer as soon as possible if they have not already done so.
- A number of sites in north east London – including community pharmacies – are offering polio vaccinations to eligible children aged five to nine, depending on their vaccination history. Parents can pre-book appointments at some sites or simply walk into others without an appointment. Locations, opening times and eligibility information for all these sites is available on the NHS North East London website. All other children aged five to nine should be offered a vaccination by their GP.
Mahfuz Rahman, 35, who lives in east London, is a polio survivor and a member of the British Polio Fellowship. He contracted polio in Bangladesh when he was around two years old and has lived with a shorter and weaker left leg since.
He said: “Walking is difficult, and I’ve never been able to run or take part in sports like football. Polio has limited the life I lead and though I’m only 35 now, I can already see new polio symptoms starting to develop, like fatigue and muscle pain.
“Any parent offered a booster or catch-up dose of the polio vaccine by the NHS should take it – we don’t want to see any polio cases in London.
“Vaccination is the best way to protect children and stop the virus spreading.
“Otherwise, you risk catching polio and living a limited life with limb damage, pain, fatigue and muscle weakness. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone”.
Diane Jones, Chief Nursing Officer for NHS North East London, said: “We’re committed to doing all we can to protect children and the wider public from the threat of polio which is why we’ve expanded the sites delivering vaccinations.
“The vaccine has been safely used in millions of children and will give them a high level of protection from polio. It is given as part of a combined vaccine to babies, toddlers, and teenagers as part of the NHS routine childhood vaccination schedule.
“All parents with children aged one to nine are being offered an appointment by their GP practice for a booster or catch-up dose of the polio vaccine and we encourage them to take up the offer as soon as possible. Please don’t let polio into your child’s life.”
Polio is caused by a virus that spreads easily from person to person. It usually spreads through contact with the poo of an infected person. For example, from people not washing their hands properly and putting them in their mouth, or from contaminated food or water. It can also spread through coughs or sneezes, but this is less common.
You can find more information about polio and vaccinations on the NHS NEL website.