The Polio Vaccine: Health 101

Learn why and when your child needs the polio vaccine.

Why does my child need the polio vaccine?

The polio vaccine protects your child from polio, a very contagious disease that can lead to paralysis. It usually affects children under age 5. Though the disease has essentially been eliminated from the U.S. after more than five decades of vaccination, it was very dangerous to children (and frightening to parents) during its peak in the 1950s.

Polio viruses are usually found in the throat and the digestive tract and may be easily passed from person to person. Up to 95 percent of people who become infected with polio will have no symptoms; up to eight percent of infected people will experience minor side effects like fever, fatigue, nausea, stiffness in the neck and back. However, in less than one percent of cases, the germs can spread to the nervous system and cause serious conditions like paralysis and even death.

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