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Children aged 5 – 9 in London able to get polio booster jab at dozens of sites across the capital

Children in London aged 5 to 9 years old can now get their polio vaccine booster dose at more than 40 sites across the capital, after the NHS stood up new sites to accelerate the rollout.

Parents can find their nearest vaccination site and opening times through the NHS website: nhs.uk/polio-sites.
Community pharmacies are among the additional sites now administering the polio vaccine, giving families in London more convenient options to get their children vaccinated.

Parents can choose to book appointments in advance at some sites or simply walk into others without an appointment.

GP practices have been offering booster and catch-up doses of the polio vaccine to children aged 1 to 9 years.

Parents of eligible children aged 1 to 4 should continue to get their booster or catch-up dose via their GP practice.

Jane Clegg, Chief Nurse for the NHS in London, said:

“We’re committed to doing all we can to protect children and those living in London from the threat of polio which is why we’ve expanded the sites where children can receive their polio vaccination.

“The NHS has now contacted all parents in London with children aged 1 to 9 years old to come forward for a booster or catch-up dose of the polio vaccine, and we encourage them to take up the offer as soon as possible.”

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, said:

“Mass polio vaccination centres will play a critical role in ensuring the booster doses can be rapidly and conveniently distributed. I urge all parents of children aged one to nine to ensure they take up the opportunity to boost or vaccinate their child as soon as possible.”

The NHS is offering all children in London aged 1 to 9 years old an inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) booster dose in line with last month’s recommendation from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

The programme started in eight boroughs in north and east London where poliovirus has been detected in sewage water, but has been rapidly expanded across all boroughs.

Dr Seilesh Kadambari, Consultant in Paediatric Infectious Diseases at Great Ormond Street Hospital, said:

“As a paediatrician, I regularly see and treat children who are poorly from a range of nasty illnesses, some of which can’t be prevented. However, polio is a vaccine-preventable disease from which you can protect your child.”

“The NHS is now inviting parents of children 1 to 9 year olds in London to book their children in for a poliovirus booster or catch-up dose to ensure high levels of immunity.

“I’d urge parents to do this as soon as possible. Don’t let polio into your child’s life.”

Four-year-old Pearl Bailey is among the first set of children in Bromley to have received a booster dose of the polio vaccine after getting the jab on 19 August 2022 at the Orpington Health and Wellbeing Centre.

Pearl’s parents – who live in Chislehurst in the southeast London borough – said they were called by Bromley GP Alliance the previous day and offered a vaccination appointment.

They immediately confirmed their appointment and were first in the queue the following day.

Pearl’s dad, Ben Bailey, said:

“My wife and I feel very reassured now Pearl has had her top-up dose of the polio vaccine, giving her extra protection.

“We also feel lucky as she’s become the first child seen by Bromley GP Alliance to get the additional dose since the start of the current initiative.

“I think any parent offered in additional dose or a catch-up, should take it up to increase their child’s protection.”

Pearl’s mum, Alicia Herrando, has thanked the NHS, Bromley GP Alliance and staff at the Orpington Health and Wellbeing Centre.

She said:

“The staff were wonderful – they were really friendly, warm and happy to see Pearl. They actually managed to get her excited for the jab which was quite astonishing!”

Bromley GP Alliance – which falls within the South East London Integrated Care System – has to date sent invitations to parents across the borough of Bromley, encouraging them to book in their children under 10 years old for a booster or catch up dose of the polio vaccine, with approximately 70 percent of parents scheduling appointments.

It is also facilitating weekly pop up vaccination clinics at various locations across Bromley including at Children and Family Centres in Biggin Hill, Mottingham and St Paul’s Cray.

Dr Angela Bhan, Consultant in Public Health and Executive Director for the South East London Integrated Care System said:

“We wholeheartedly welcome the announcement of the vaccination centres, some of which are in southeast London.

“With poliovirus circulating in the community, we have acted swiftly to protect as many people as possible, setting up additional polio vaccination clinics in our patch which are already up and running.

“We have an excellent track record in southeast London of working collaboratively with our partners including NHS, Council and voluntary services to reach our diverse communities including those not up to date with their immunisations and others not registered with a GP practice.

“Across our healthcare system, vaccination appointments are available through routine nurse and GP visits, in community-based pop up clinics, children’s centres, outpatient services, shopping centres, roving health and wellbeing buses and pharmacies.

“We echo the call for parents to take up the offer of a polio vaccination for their children and to make sure all their routine childhood immunisations are up to date as this will offer them the very best protection”.

Mahfuz Rahman, 35, who lives in east London is a polio survivor and British Polio Fellowship member. He contracted polio when I was around two years old and has lived with a shorter and weaker left leg since.

He said:

“Walking is difficult, and I’ve never been able to run or take part in sports like football. Polio has limited the life I lead and though I’m only 35 now, I can already see new polio symptoms starting to develop, like fatigue and muscle pain.

“Any parent offered a booster or catch-up dose of the polio vaccine by the NHS should take it – we don’t want to see any polio cases in London.

“Vaccination is the best way to protect children and stop the virus spreading.

“Otherwise, you risk catching polio and living a limited life with limb damage, pain, fatigue and muscle weakness. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone”.

The majority of Londoners are protected from polio which means the overall risk of paralytic polio is considered low.

The best way to prevent polio is to make sure people are up to date with their vaccinations.

Polio is caused by a virus that spreads easily from person to person. It usually spreads through contact with the poo of an infected person. For example, from people not washing their hands properly and putting them in their mouth, or from contaminated food or water. It can also spread through coughs or sneezes, but this is less common.