Poliomyelitis (polio)

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

High-risk areas

High-risk areas for polio include several countries in Africa and the Indian subcontinent, in particular:

  • Afghanistan
  • Egypt
  • India
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan

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)
  • had their last dose of the polio vaccine 10 or more years ago

The vaccine

Children aged under 10 will receive their polio vaccine as part of the childhood vaccination programme.

Children aged 10 or over and adults who have never been vaccinated will need 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, which should protect you for life.

Anyone who has not been fully vaccinated against polio, 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 babies younger than two months old.