What You Need to Know: Polio and Polio Vaccination

The good news: 

Polio is a vaccine-preventable illness. The vaccines available domestically are safe, well-studied, FDA-approved, and have been used for decades. The inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) used in the United States cannot cause polio disease. If you are over 18 and attended school in the United States you are most likely vaccinated against polio, as it is a requirement for attending school and is routinely given in infancy and early childhood (by age 6 years). Polio vaccine has been available since 1955 and is a routine childhood vaccine in the US and most other countries in the world. At least 78% of people living in NYS are vaccinated against polio and 86% of children in NYC are fully vaccinated. Polio is spread through droplets (sneezing, coughing) and through contact with feces or fecal matter. Hand washing and masking can also help prevent spread, but vaccination is the best way to keep yourself and your community safe.  

The not-so-good news: 

Although most cases can be asymptomatic or cause only mild illness, polio can cause meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the spinal cord and brain) in up to 1 out of every 20 cases and paralysis and death in up to 1 of every 200 cases. As you may be aware, in July 2022, the NYS Department of Health (NYSDOH) and the Rockland County Department of Health alerted the public of a polio case in Rockland County. The NYSDOH immediately conducted a case investigation to protect against the spread. In addition, wastewater surveillance in NYC identified poliovirus in six samples between July and August 2022. No one has been diagnosed with polio in New York City, but this suggests the possibility of cases spreading. The NYSDOH and Callen-Lorde urge any unvaccinated or partially vaccinated Callen-Lorde patients, as well as those unsure of their vaccination status, to receive the polio vaccine. Vaccination is safe and is the best protection for yourself and our community. Previously vaccinated adults at very high risk of contracting polio (like those with household contacts who test positive for disease, those who work with wastewater, and healthcare workers treating persons with polio in areas of active transmission like Rockland and Orange County) may receive a once-in-a-lifetime booster of polio vaccine.   

Callen-Lorde does not currently offer polio vaccination.  Unvaccinated people or people unsure of their vaccination status should call the DOH at 347-396-7943 to schedule a vaccination appointment.  Children ages 4 years and older can get low- or no-cost vaccines at the NYC Health Department’s Fort Greene Health Center at 295 Flatbush Ave. Ext., Fifth Floor, Brooklyn, NY, from Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. To make an appointment, visit https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/services/immunization-clinics.page.