London children offered polio vaccine after virus detected in sewage

Consumer

After the virus was detected in sewage, all children living in Greater London from ages one to nine will be offered a polio vaccine.

Since February, the paralysis-causing virus has been found one hundred and sixteen times in London's wastewater.

“After the virus was detected in sewage, all children living in Greater London will be offered a polio vaccine.“

The pressing immunisation campaign will result in up to a million children being offered the vaccine, with parents and carers being contacted by their GP within the next month.

Since the whole of Europe was declared polio-free in 2003, it has been seen as a disease of the past. However, what is occurring now is somewhat complex as the detected samples are linked to a polio vaccine utilised in other countries.

Some parts of the world still dealing with polio outbreaks use the oral vaccine – which, although safe, uses a live virus. This gives a large amount of immunity but can spread in areas where not a lot of people are protected.

As the harmless form of the virus used in the vaccine can mutate and evolve until it can once again cause paralysis, this is a problem if it continues to spread.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) stated that despite most of the samples detected being the safe vaccine form of polio, a number had mutated enough to be dangerous.

The problem first arose after a series of tests at Beckton Sewage Works, serving north and east London, in June. Detailed analysis of the sewage system has found the virus in places such as Camden, Islington, Hackney, Enfield etc. The UKHSA says analysis of the samples has suggested that the growth of polio "has gone beyond a close network of a few individuals".

An assembly of the government's vaccine specialists - the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation – where a rapid booster campaign for children aged one to nine has been recommended.

The objective is two-fold. First, to increase immunity levels so the virus finds more difficult to spread and decrease the danger of any child catching the virus and becoming paralysed.

A consultant epidemiologist at UKHSA, Dr Vanessa Saliba, stated: "All children aged one to nine years in London need to have a dose of polio vaccine now - whether it's an extra booster dose or just to catch up with their routine vaccinations."

She stated it was "vital" parents ensure their children are fully vaccinated, although the risk for most of the vaccinated population remains "low". Between one-in-a-thousand and one-in-a-hundred people become paralysed, primarily young children, after catching polio.

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