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Polio vaccine

The polio vaccine protects against poliomyelitis . This is a severe disease that leads to the loss of movement (paralysis).

Alternative Names

Immunization - polio;  Immunization - IPV; Vaccine - IPV; Inactivated polio vaccine; Salk vaccine


Polio is caused by the poliomyelitis virus.

The vaccine is called inactivated polio vaccine, or IPV for short.

The vaccine contains a dead (inactive) form of the polio virus. The vaccine cannot cause polio. After getting the vaccine, the body learns to attack the polio virus if the person is exposed to it. As a result the person is very unlikely to get sick with polio.


Polio no longer occurs in the United States. But it remains common in other areas of the world. Because global travel can spread the disease, getting vaccinated against polio is still important.

IPV is one of the recommended childhood vaccines. Nearly all states require proof that a child has received IPV before starting school. 

Children should get four doses (shots) of IPV. One dose should be received at each of the following ages:

  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 to 18 months
  • 4 to 6 years

Children who have received three doses of IPV before age 4 should receive a fourth dose before or at the time they start school. The fourth dose is not needed if the third dose is received after age 4.

IPV can be given as a shot by itself. Or it can be combined with other vaccines and given as a single injection. Your health care provider can tell you which vaccine is right for your child.

Adults are not given a booster polio shot unless they are likely to be in places where the disease is known to occur.


  • Polio vaccine is not usually recommended for persons over 18. Exceptions are unvaccinated health care workers, lab technicians, or others exposed to the virus.
  • Persons who received a dose of IPV and developed an allergy from it.
  • Persons who are severely allergic to the antibiotics neomycin, streptomycin, or polymyxin B. The vaccine contains tiny amounts of these antibiotics.
  • Persons who are ill with something more severe than a cold or have a fever should reschedule their vaccination until after they are recovered.


Most persons who receive IPV do not have problems afterward. There may be mild soreness and redness where the shot was given. Serious problems from IPV are rare and are mainly due to allergic reactions to parts of the vaccine.

Tell your health care provider if you or your child had problems with the first IPV dose (shot) before scheduling the second one.


  • You are not sure if a person should get IPV
  • An allergic reaction or other symptoms develop after receiving the vaccine
  • You have questions or concerns about the vaccine 


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) Recommended Immunization Schedules for Persons Aged 0 Through 18 Years and Adults Aged 19 Years and Older - United States, 2013. MMWR. 2013;62(Suppl1):1-19.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccine safety and adverse events. Available at Accessed April 19, 2013.

Orenstein WA, Atkinson WL. Immunization. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 17.

Updated: 2/21/2013

Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

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