What is poliomyelitis vaccine?
Poliomyelitis (“polio”) vaccine is a shot that is administered to train the immune system to recognize and defend against poliovirus, the virus that causes poliomyelitis (polio for short). Most commonly, people in North America are given inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV), which is administered as four injections spread over several months. There is also an oral polio vaccine (OPV) that has not been used in the US since 2000, although it is still used in some places. Polio has been eradicated in the United States and throughout the developed world and most people have been immunized as children. However, if you are pregnant and have never been vaccinated and you are located, or will be traveling, in an area where polio is still present, you must get vaccinated.
What is poliomyelitis vaccine given to prevent or treat?
Polio vaccine is given to prevent polio, a disease that results from poliovirus attacking the nervous system. Before the vaccine was in wide use, this virus was devastating, and still is in developing parts of the world. It can kill through paralysis of breathing muscles, and it can leave survivors disabled. US President Franklin Roosevelt is the most famous person to have been disabled by polio. Although the disease has been eradicated in the western world, vaccination must continue, due to many people traveling and the fact that the virus has not been eradicated from all of humanity. We are getting very close to eradication, however.
How does polio vaccine vaccine work?
IPV is an inactivated viral vaccine. As such, it works by presenting your immune system with proteins that normally are present on the outside of virus particles, but without any live virus. As a result, your immune system learns to recognize the poliovirus and defend against it.
If I receive polio vaccine during pregnancy, can it harm my baby?
Although there is a theoretical risk to the developing baby, there is no evidence that IPV is actually dangerous. While OPV has live components in it, it is not given anymore in the US and most other developed countries.
If I receive polio vaccine and become pregnant, what should I do?
Continue with your pregnancy as normal, as you will have been given IPV, which studies have not proven harmful to the mother, or baby.
If I am given polio vaccine, can I safely breastfeed my baby?
Yes. The IPV has been demonstrated to be safe to nursing newborns.
If I am given polio vaccine, will it be more difficult to get pregnant?
Polio vaccine should not affect your fertility negatively.
If I am given polio vaccine, what should I know?
The IPV vaccine has been demonstrated as being safe during breastfeeding, no studies have been able to show that it is harmful during pregnancy, and the OPV vaccine is not given in most developed areas.
If I am taking any vaccine, what should I know?
You may find Pregistry's expert report about vaccines during pregnancy here, reports about a variety of vaccines here, and reports about the various medications used for infections here. Pregistry also offers blog posts about vaccines here. Additional information can also be found in the resources at the end of this report.
Resources for polio vaccine in pregnancy:
For more information about polio vaccine during and after pregnancy, contact http://www.womenshealth.gov/ (800-994-9662 [TDD: 888-220-5446]) or check the following links:
- US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Pregnancy and Vaccination
- US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Maternal Vaccines: Part of a Healthy Pregnancy