A month after it was announced traces of poliovirus were detected in sewage samples in North and East London, increasing numbers of parents in the capital are booking appointments to get their children vaccinated, as NHS London is urging others to check their child’s immunisation status is up to date.
All parents – especially those with children aged 5 or under – are being encouraged to ensure their young ones are vaccinated against polio, a rare but serious infection.
The polio vaccine is free and given as part of combined jabs to babies, toddlers and teenagers as part of the NHS routine childhood vaccination schedule. It is given when a child is:
- 8, 12 and 16 weeks old as part of the 6-in-1 vaccine (DTaP/IPV/Hib/HepB)
- 3 years and 4 months old as part of the 4-in-1 (DTaP/IPV) pre-school booster
- 14 years old as part of the 3-in-1 (Td/IPV) teenage booster
Children need all 5 doses of the vaccine to be fully protected against polio.
Parents are advised to check their child’s Red Book or contact their GP surgery if they are unsure of their immunisation status. If a child has missed a dose of the polio vaccine, it is not too late to catch up.
The NHS in London is doing everything it can to ensure everyone in the capital who is not yet vaccinated against polio takes up the offer – from local NHS teams contacting their unvaccinated patients to additional jab clinics in schools. Local teams across London are also running targeted community outreach to boost immunisation levels in areas with lower rates of vaccination.
Following the recent findings, one GP surgery in East London – Aurora Medcare – has set up extra immunisation clinics and ordered additional supplies of the polio vaccine in a bid to respond to the needs of its local community.
Dr Jagan John, GP and member of the North East London Integrated Care Board said:
“Although the risk of getting polio in London is extremely low, it is a serious infection which can have potentially devastating consequences so we wanted to ensure we’re doing all we can to help our community which is why we have set up extra vaccination clinics, running until late in the evening every day.
“As soon as we heard the news, our nursing team ordered more vaccines and set up the clinics to get children – and others who are not vaccinated – fully immunised.
“Through vaccination, polio is preventable, and I would urge parents, especially of young ones, to ensure their children are up to date with all their immunisations including against polio.”
Dr John said his GP surgery is now getting more queries from parents on a daily basis and has seen an increase in vaccination appointments over the past few weeks. The extra vaccination clinics will continue until at least September.
Mark Plastow, 34, lives in Barking in East London and has a son, Joshua, who is 3 and half years old. Joshua was last week given his second dose of the polio vaccine at Aurora Medcare. Mark said he was surprised to hear poliovirus was back in the news but feels reassured now Joshua has had the latest dose of the vaccine.
He said: “I thought it was all gone so I was taken aback on hearing the news.
“Everyone in our family was saying we needed to be careful, so my wife and I are really happy Joshua has had his second dose of the polio vaccine, giving him further protection.
“We really don’t know if this could become a bigger issue, and I know all parents want the best for their kids so I would most certainly encourage them to ensure their children are fully up to date with their polio vaccination – it’s in your kid’s best interest.”
Mark said the process was quick and easy and Joshua ‘took it well’.
Jane Clegg, chief nurse for the NHS in London said:
“While the majority of Londoners are fully protected against polio and won’t need to take further action, the NHS is reaching out to parents of children in London who are not up to date with their polio vaccinations to invite them to get protected.
“Parents can also check their child’s vaccination status in their Red Book and people should contact their GP surgery to book a vaccination, should they or their child not be fully up to date.”
The UK is considered by the World Health Organization to be polio-free, with a low-risk for polio transmission due to the high level of vaccination uptake across the general population. However, it is vital to achieve high levels of vaccine coverage in all communities in order to continue to keep people safe from polio.
Dr Lucia Anthonypillai, a GP and mother of three who lives in Bromley in south-east London, is also urging parents to ensure their children are vaccinated. Her children are 8 years old, 2 years old and eight months old.
Dr Anthonypillai said:
“All my children are up to date with their immunisations including the polio vaccine. As a mum, I know when our little ones are unwell, we try to do everything we can to get them better, sometimes tending to them through sleepless nights.
“Keeping them up to date with their immunisations is a simple, easy and effective way to help protect them from falling seriously ill from viruses like polio.”
Immunisation for polio and many other vaccinations are always available, and parents or carers of children under the age of five or anyone who hasn’t had a polio vaccine should contact their GP surgery for an appointment.
If you are not up to date, you can have a polio vaccination at any point for free on the NHS.
People should also get vaccinated even if they’ve had polio before as the vaccine protects against three different types of poliovirus.
The UK Health Security Agency continues to investigate the situation through wastewater surveillance to assess the extent of transmission and identify local areas for targeted action.