Children Under 10 in London to be Offered Polio Vaccine

All children aged under 10 living in Greater London are to be offered a polio vaccine after the virus was detected in sewage.

The poliomyelitis virus can cause paralysis, and though the disease has been virtually eliminated in Europe, the virus has been found 116 times in London’s waste water since February.

It’s thought that the virus has got into the water supply from oral polio vaccines, which are used in other parts of the world and rely on a live virus. Though these vaccines are effective, they do carry the risk of transmission to unvaccinated people through waste. In this case it’s thought that the virus may have mutated in sewage, and though no instances of infection have been reported in the UK, as a precaution the UK Health Security Agency will offer nearly a million children the chance to be vaccinated using a vaccine containing inactivated virus. This will include some who have already had a jab at school.

Parents and carers will be contacted by their GP within the next month.


Since June, the virus has been detected in sewage works in Beckton, Barnet, Brent, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Islington and Waltham Forest, and genetic analysis suggests that it has “gone beyond a close network of a few individuals”.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is now recommending a rapid booster campaign for children aged one to nine. The Committee originated in the 1960s as an advisory body on polio vaccination

Experts say that the risk for the majority of the population who are vaccinated remains low, but it is vital that parents ensure their children are fully vaccinated, as up to one in a hundred people who are infected with olio develop paralysis.

Meanwhile, surveillance of waste water sites will be increased.

Elsewhere in the world, polio virus has been discovered in waste water in Israel and America, where one young man developed paralysis.

Symptoms of infection can be similar to influenza or a stomach infection, including a high temperature, sore throat, headache, stomach pains, muscular aches and nausea.

See also: NHS Backlog of Longest-Waiting Patients Drops

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