Parents whose children have missed their routine childhood vaccinations, have been urged to get their children vaccinated after traces of the polio virus have been identified in a small number of wastewater samples, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). The virus has been found in samples in the Beckton Sewage Treatment Works in east London between February and May, suggesting that there may be some spread of the virus in the community. The virus has only been detected in sewage samples and no cases of polio have been identified based on people developing symptoms. The risk to individuals and to the borough of Haringey as a whole, is still low.

The UK is considered by the World Health Organisation to be polio-free, with low-risk for polio transmission due to the high level of vaccination across the population. However, vaccine coverage for childhood vaccines has decreased nationally and especially in parts of London over the past few years, so UKHSA is urging people to check they are up to date with their vaccines. Poliovirus has the potential to spread, particularly in communities where vaccine uptake is lower. On rare occasions it can cause paralysis in people who are not fully vaccinated.

Many children have missed vital routine vaccinations over the past couple of years, due to the pandemic, putting them at risk of preventable diseases, including polio. The good news is that it’s not too late to protect your child. If you are unsure whether your child is up to date with their vaccinations, please check their Red Book, or contact your GP.

The Polio vaccine is administered in the UK as part of the 6-in-one vaccine at 8 weeks, 12 weeks and 16 weeks old, protecting your child against six serious illnesses. In addition, the 4-in-1 pre-school booster given to children at the age of 3 years and 4 months, includes a booster vaccine dose against polio, tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough. Combined these routine vaccinations offer very effective protection to your child against serious illnesses.

All vaccines used in the UK have been approved by the UK’s independent medicines and vaccines agency.

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