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Vaccine-Derived Polio in India Will Not Affect “Polio-Free” Status

Posted Mar 20 2012 12:00am
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None - This image is in the public domain and ...

None - This image is in the public domain and thus free of any copyright restrictions. As a matter of courtesy we request that the content provider be credited and notified in any public or private usage of this image. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One reason parents often avoid the polio vaccine is the fear that their child may actually contract the disease from the vaccine. Once upon a time, I was told that this live vaccine could actually be contracted through changing diapers. Like much information about vaccines that is shared, sometimes it is hard to separate fact from fiction.

In the US, the live polio vaccine has not been used for a dozen years.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports:

There are two types of vaccine that protect against polio: inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) and oral polio vaccine (OPV). IPV, used in the United States since 2000, is given as an injection in the leg or arm, depending on patient’s age. Polio vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines. Most people should get polio vaccine when they are children. Children get 4 doses of IPV, at these ages: 2 months, 4 months, 6-18 months, and booster dose at 4-6 years. OPV has not been used in the United States since 2000 but is still used in many parts of the world.

India is one of those countries that still uses the OPV.

Yesterday, the Times of India reports:

India  has reported its first case of vaccine derived  polio  virus (VDPV) infection of 2012. A five-month-old child from the Murshidabad district of  West Bengal  has got infected with the virus after taking the oral polio vaccine…

Oral polio vaccines (OPV) contain a weakened version of poliovirus, activating an immune response in the body. A vaccinated person transmits the weakened virus to others, who also develop antibodies to polio, ultimately stopping transmission of poliovirus in a community. According to experts, in very rare instances, the virus in the vaccine can mutate into a form that can paralyze this is what is known as a VDPV.

As a result, India may stop using this particular polio vaccine.  Today, the Times of India explained this game change:

The India Expert Advisory Group (IEAG) on polio has recommended that the nation should stop the use of  trivalent oral polio vaccine (TOPV), and only rely on the oral bivalent variant.

Experts say chances of vaccine derived polio virus infection (VDPV) are higher with the use of TOPV (that targets all three strains of polio virus – P1, P2 and P3) against the bivalent vaccine (that targets only P1 and P3)…

“The plan to shelve the TOPV is part of our end-game strategy. India recently was taken off the list of polio endemic countries by the WHO. The recommendation to shelve TOPV is in order to ensure that we don’t even report a single VDPV case. The chances of VDPV infections are higher with the use of TOPV,” said a health ministry official.

Also, the vaccine targets the P2 strain of polio that was eradicated from India in 1999.

Clearly, this vaccine has prevented paralysis and death, which the CDC states only occurs in “fewer than 1% of polio cases”. Interestingly, “95% of persons infected with polio will have no symptoms.”

India has not reported a “wild” case of polio since January 13, 2011. Such eradication is called “one of the greatest achievements in public health in the 21st century”.

I assume it boils down to money.  Just as thimerosal (mercury) preserved vaccines are still administered in third world countries  funded by US billionaires but are no longer considered safe in the US, live polio oral vaccines are still prevalent around the globe.  If it isn’t safe for our kids, why is it safe in the third world?

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