Polio (poliomyelitis) vaccine

What is it for?

This vaccine protects you against infection by the poliovirus. There are three different types of poliovirus that can infect your stomach and gut and cause polio (poliomyelitis). The viruses spread when people come into contact with faeces or throat secretions such as mucus or saliva that contain the virus.

Polio can cause meningitis (brain infection) and paralysis. About 1 in 20 people (5%) who need hospital treatment for polio will die. About half the people who survive the infection will be permanently paralysed.

Who should be vaccinated?

Children

The polio vaccine is given to children aged 6 weeks to 2 months, 4 months and 6 months in a combination vaccine that also protects five other diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough (pertussis), Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and hepatitis B.

A further booster combination vaccination is given at 4 years (or anytime from 3.5 years), which protects against polio and diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough (pertussis).

The vaccinations are given free to all children as part of the National Immunisation Program schedule.

Adults

The polio vaccine is recommended:

  • for adults who aren’t sure it they have ever had the polio vaccine in childhood; it is recommended to have a course of three injections given 4 weeks apart
  • as a booster, if you have been vaccinated previously, but you are travelling to an area where polio is present
  • for laboratory workers who may come into contact with the polio virus.

Adults who need to have the vaccine can be vaccinated at their own cost.

Note that booster doses are not recommended for adults unless they are at special risk of getting the infection (e.g. travelling to countries where polio is present).

Pregnant women

The polio vaccine is usually only given to pregnant women who are travelling to countries where polio is present and who will be at high risk of the infection. Your doctor can provide advice about this.

Read more about what vaccines you can have if you are pregnant.

Women who are breastfeeding

There is no known risk to your baby if you are vaccinated with the polio vaccine while you are breastfeeding.

Women who are breastfeeding can be vaccinated with any vaccine, except the yellow fever vaccine.

Side effects

Common side effects of polio-containing vaccines (that may affect 1 to 10 in every 100 people) include:

  • fever (a temperature of 38.5°C or higher)
  • redness, swelling and tenderness at the injection site
  • a lump at the injection site; this generally disappears after a few weeks and does not need treatment
  • muscle aches.

Read more about vaccine side effects and safety.

Who can I ask about side effects?

If you’re concerned that you or your child may have had side effects related to a vaccine, seek medical advice. To report and discuss possible side effects, call the Adverse Medicines Events (AME) Line on 1300 134 237 from anywhere in Australia (Monday–Friday, 9am–5pm AEST).

References

Related information - poliomyelitis vaccine

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(Medicine)
09 Mar 2016 Infanrix Hexa (thiomersal free) Injection is a brand of medicine containing the active ingredient diphtheria toxoid - hepatitis B vaccine - pertussis vaccine - poliomyelitis vaccine - tetanus toxoid / haemophilus influenzae vaccine. Find out about side effects, who can take it and who shouldn’t use Infanrix Hexa (thiomersal free) Injection by reading the latest Australian consumer medicine information, plus tips on how to use medicines wisely and safely.
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12 Dec 2014 Adacel Polio Suspension for injection is a brand of medicine containing the active ingredient pertussis vaccine - diphtheria toxoid - tetanus toxoid - poliomyelitis vaccine. Find out about side effects, who can take it and who shouldn’t use Adacel Polio Suspension for injection by reading the latest Australian consumer medicine information, plus tips on how to use medicines wisely and safely.
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12 Dec 2014 Boostrix-IPV Suspension for injection is a brand of medicine containing the active ingredient diphtheria toxoid - tetanus toxoid - pertussis vaccine - poliomyelitis vaccine. Find out about side effects, who can take it and who shouldn’t use Boostrix-IPV Suspension for injection by reading the latest Australian consumer medicine information, plus tips on how to use medicines wisely and safely.
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11 Dec 2014 Ipol Suspension for injection is a brand of medicine containing the active ingredient poliomyelitis vaccine. Find out about side effects, who can take it and who shouldn’t use Ipol Suspension for injection by reading the latest Australian consumer medicine information, plus tips on how to use medicines wisely and safely.
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11 Dec 2014 Quadracel Suspension for injection is a brand of medicine. Find out about side effects, who can and who shouldn’t use Quadracel Suspension for injection by reading the latest Australian consumer medicine information. See our tips on how to use medicines wisely and safely.
(Medicine)
04 Nov 2013 Infanrix IPV (preservative free) Suspension for injection is a brand of medicine containing the active ingredient diphtheria toxoid - pertussis vaccine - tetanus toxoid - poliomyelitis vaccine. Find out about side effects, who can take it and who shouldn’t use Infanrix IPV (preservative free) Suspension for injection by reading the latest Australian consumer medicine information, plus tips on how to use medicines wisely and safely.