When Should You Get a Polio Vaccination?

There are two types of polio vaccine:

Inactivated Poliovirus (IPV)

IPV is a shot given in the leg or the arm, depending on age. IPV is the vaccine recommended in the United States today.

Oral Poliovirus (OPV)

OPV is a live oral vaccine that is swallowed.

Before January 1, 2000, OPV was recommended for most kids in the United States. OPV helped rid the country of polio and is still used in many parts of the world. Since January 1, 2000, IPV has been adopted as the standard United States vaccine. Both vaccines give immunity to polio, but OPV is better at keeping the disease from spreading to other people. However, for a few people (about 1 in 2.4 million), OPV actually causes polio. Since the risk of getting polio in the United States is now extremely low, experts believe that using oral polio vaccine is no longer worth the slight risk, except in limited circumstances, which your doctor can describe. The polio shot (IPV) does not cause polio.

The polio vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines.

Most people should get polio vaccine when they are kids. Kids get four doses of IPV at age:

  • Two months.
  • Four months.
  • Six to eighteen months.
  • Four to six years (booster dose).

Most adults don't need polio vaccine because they were already vaccinated as kids, but three groups of adults are at higher risk and should consider polio vaccination:

  • People who travel to areas of the world where polio is common.
  • Lab workers who might handle poliovirus.
  • Health care workers who treat patients who could have polio.

Adults in these three groups who have never been vaccinated against polio should get three doses of IPV:

  • The first dose: at any time.
  • The second dose: one to two months after the first dose.
  • The third dose: 6 to 12 months after the second dose.

Adults in these three groups who have had one or two doses of polio vaccine in the past should get the remaining one or two doses. It doesn't matter how long it has been since the earlier dose(s).