Poliomyelitis (polio) is a serious infection that is caused by a virus. It is spread through contact with human faeces (stools), contaminated food and water, or person-to-person contact.

High risk areas: several countries in Africa, and the Indian subcontinent. In particular, Nigeria, Niger, Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.

In the UK, children are vaccinated against polio under the childhood vaccination programme. This means that many people in the UK will already be fully vaccinated against polio.

The polio vaccination is recommended for anyone travelling to a high risk area who:

  • has not been vaccinated before,
  • has not been fully vaccinated (in the UK you should receive five doses of the polio vaccine), or
  • had their last dose of the polio vaccine 10 years ago, or longer.

The vaccine

Children who are under 10 years of age will receive their polio vaccine as part of the childhood vaccination programme.

Children who are 10 years of age, or over, and adults who have never been vaccinated, will need to have three doses of the vaccine, each one month apart. You can have a booster dose 5-10 years after this, followed by a second booster dose after another 10 years, and you will then be protected for life.

Anyone who has not been fully vaccinated against polio (received five doses of the vaccine), or who has not had a booster dose in the last 10 years, will need to have a booster dose of the polio vaccine.

The polio vaccine is usually combined with other vaccines, such as diphtheria and tetanus. The polio vaccine is not suitable for infants who are under two months of age.