How The Oral Polio Vaccine Can Cause Polio
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of NPR
Posted: January 6th, 2020
Just last month, the World Health Organization announced that two of three strains of polio had been eradicated. It's been one of the great success stories of modern medicine. The disease, which, of course, can lead to paralysis, has been reduced to just a handful of cases around the world. But now scientists say there's been a troubling setback. One of the vaccines used to prevent polio has actually been causing some people to get polio. The problem begins with what's called a live vaccine, which has little bits of weakened polio virus in it, given to children around the world. What seems to have gone wrong? The oral polio vaccine that's used primarily in low- and middle-income countries - it's been the workhorse of this global effort to eradicate polio. But it is a live vaccine. It's cheap. It's easy to administer. However, this live vaccine is continued to be used worldwide. And while you're doing that, some of that vaccine has gotten out into the world. And it's mutated. It starts circulating again, just like regular polio. But early on, it's just - it's still a vaccine. It's not dangerous. And then slowly, it sort of regains strength. And they're finding they can actually genetically see this - that scientists can actually trace it back directly to the vaccine. And now these vaccine-linked cases are actually causing more cases of paralysis each year than actual traditional - what scientists call wild polio. In the United States and in Europe ... we're using an injectable vaccine, which is a dead vaccine. It is not a live virus, and it cannot cause polio.
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