Hesperian Health Guides

Prevention of Polio

POLIO VACCINE, the best protection – IF it has been kept cold continuously!
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  • Vaccinate babies with polio vaccine. It is usually best to give the first polio vaccination at birth Often they get the vaccine at the same time as the DPT vaccine, 4 times by the time they are 18 months old. They should get a 5th dose when they are 4 to 6 years old.
  • Vaccinate as many children as possible. The vaccine given by mouth is alive. So, if most of the children are vaccinated, the live vaccine will spread to children who have not been vaccinated, and protect them also.
  • Try to keep the polio vaccine very cold (2° to 8°C). It must be kept cold or it will spoil.
a health worker talks to an ice cream man
Why is it that YOU always have ices for sale and WE can't find a way to keep vaccines cold?
Lack of true community participation, ma'm!
  • Seek community help with vaccination and in keeping vaccines cold. Sometimes vaccines do not reach villages because health posts lack refrigeration. But often storekeepers and a few families have refrigerators. Win their interest and cooperation.
  • To give best protection, vaccinate the child when she does not have a fever over 38°C or diarrhea. But if she is just a little sick it is OK to give the polio vaccine. It is more important to give the complete series of 3 vaccinations and one booster later, than to miss them because the child is sick.

It is estimated that in poor countries at least one-third of vaccines are spoiled by the time they reach the children. Therefore, even in children who have been vaccinated, additional precautions are needed:


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  • Breastfeed your baby as long as possible. Breast milk contains ‘antibodies’ that may help protect against polio. (Babies rarely get polio before 8 months old because they still have their mothers’ antibodies. Breastfeeding may make this protection last longer.)
people dance in a community show
  • Organize the people and help out in popular campaigns to encourage vaccination and breastfeeding. Community theater and puppet shows are good ways to raise awareness on these issues. See Chapter 48.

This page was updated:21 Nov 2019