Travel Vaccination for Polio

Polio is a disease that at one point affected about 1,000 children across the world every day, leaving them with lifelong paralysis if not fatal. Thanks to a rigorous regime of childhood vaccination the incidence of polio in the UK has dropped dramatically, unfortunately however outbreaks do occur in other parts of the world. The disease is, at present, cropping up in parts of the Mediterranean, South East Asia, and Africa, and if you haven’t received the routine childhood vaccination against Polio or haven’t had a booster injection in 10 years, you will need the jab before you travel.

The polio vaccine

Polio is vaccinated against by a 3-in-1 injection that also confers immunity against tetanus and diphtheria. This injection is also known as the teenage booster as it is offered to teenagers between 13 and 18 years of age, and is known medically as the Td/IPV vaccine.

The vaccine itself is composed of diphtheria and tetanus toxoids (harmless versions of the poisonous disease causing toxins released by some microorganisms) and three different inactivated polio viruses. These inactivated viruses are dead and pose no threat to your immune system, however they do effectively induce an immune response which means that should you experience a real infection, your body will be able to defend itself.

Arranging the polio vaccine before you travel

As mentioned earlier in this article, the polio travel vaccination is a good idea if you haven’t been immunised against polio or haven’t received a booster injection in the past 10 years. If this is the case, then you should talk to your GP about arranging the vaccine before you travel. The polio vaccination is actually available free on the NHS if you arrange it through your doctor, however you do have the option of paying it for privately if you prefer.

The polio travel vaccine is kept free and subsidised by the NHS because the condition is considered a serious risk to public health, and by keeping it cost free less people are likely to renege on the treatment if they need it.

When arranging the polio vaccine before you travel it is worth making sure that you give yourself enough time to recover from any potential side effects you may experience from the Td/IPV injection. Side effects are not infrequent but are generally mild, and usually involve some redness or swelling around the site of infection. If you are concerned it is always worth talking to your GP, and again, by having your injection in advance of your travel plans you give yourself ample time to address these concerns.

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