European Immunisation Week, April 20-24, 2015 - Polio free- let's keep it that way!

Published:

The good news is that Europe is polio-free. The last locally acquired wild-polio cases within the current EU borders were reported from Bulgaria in 2001. However, the confirmed circulation of wild poliovirus in several countries and the documented exportation of wild poliovirus to other countries support the fact that there is a potential risk for wild poliovirus being re-introduced to the Europe.

In 2014, a total of 359 polio cases were notified to the World Health Organization (WHO). To date in 2015, only Pakistan and Afghanistan have reported cases (21 in Pakistan and 1 in Afghanistan).

In Ireland, the last polio case was notified back in 1984. But during the 1940s-early 1960s, numerous cases of polio were notified each year. The current absence of polio in Ireland is directly attributable to the national polio vaccination programme that was introduced in 1957.

The national programme protects our children
Most children in Ireland are protected against polio as a result of the free childhood immunisation programme.

  • Most recent Irish data (Q3 2014 data) indicates that
    • By the age of 12 months, 92% of Irish children are vaccinated with three doses of the Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV)
    • By the age of 24 months, 96% of children have received three doses of this vaccine
  • However, HPSC estimates that during 2014 approximately 300 children aged 24 months in 2014 were incompletely protected against polio. If these children fail to get immunised in the following years this means that the number of incompletely vaccinated children increases substantially with time.
  • Unvaccinated children and adults are at potential risk of polio infection if they are
    • exposed to the virus in Ireland (as a result of polio virus exposure following importation into Ireland by people who have been in polio affected countries and are carrying it in their body) OR
    • during travel to regions of the world where polio transmission still occurs and exposed to it in the environment or through food or person to person contact.

 

Key message
Parents of children and individuals who are not vaccinated should remember it is never too late to vaccinate. Talk with your GP if you think that you or your children need polio vaccination.

For more information on polio in Ireland and immunisation uptake statistics
Polio notifications 1948 onwards in Ireland
Annual statistics
Quarterly reports
WHO information on polio
HPSC information on polio and surveillance for diseases that mimic polio