Polio virus: vaccination 'catch-up' campaign rolled out for primary school aged children in London

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This latest campaign will target children who have already had at least one dose of the poliovirus vaccine, in a mix of school and community-based clinics

London children aged one to 11 will be offered poliovaccines as part of a catch-up campaign, to boost the city's lagging vaccination rates against the deadly virus.

Health officials warned last year that there had been “some transmission” of the virus in the capital after detecting poliovirus in sewage samples across North and East London. In response, London children aged between one and nine who had already been vaccinated were offered a booster dose of the polio vaccine

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The latest announcement comes after NationalWorld reported this initial campaign had been quietly paused in December, with the NHS declining to explicitly provide a reason why.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said on Thursday there has been fewer poliovirus detections in London which suggests reduced community transmission, but added that vaccine rates in some London boroughs is still too low.

The UKHSA said 87.6% of children in London are receiving all their polio vaccinations by the time they turn one, compared to 92.1% in England as a whole. Uptake for the pre-school booster for children aged five is even lower at 69.9% in London compared to 83.4% in England.

London children aged one to 11 will be offered poliovaccines as part of a catch-up campaign, to boost the city's lagging vaccination rates against the deadly virus (Photos: Adobe Stock)London children aged one to 11 will be offered poliovaccines as part of a catch-up campaign, to boost the city's lagging vaccination rates against the deadly virus (Photos: Adobe Stock)
London children aged one to 11 will be offered poliovaccines as part of a catch-up campaign, to boost the city's lagging vaccination rates against the deadly virus (Photos: Adobe Stock) | Supplied

The NHS in London will deliver a catch-up campaign, offering polio jabs and other routine childhood vaccines such as measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) to unvaccinated or partially vaccinated children, aged one to 11, during the summer term.

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Children will receive vaccines through a combination of primary school and community clinics, with a particular focus on supporting communities with the lowest levels of vaccine uptake, the UKHSA said.

UKHSA epidemiologist Dr Vanessa Saliba said: “While there are early signs of reduced spread of the poliovirus in London, we need to continue to improve uptake of childhood vaccines in all communities.

“Until we reach every last child, we cannot be sure that we will not see a case of paralysis," she said. “Even a single case of paralysis from polio would be a tragedy as it is completely preventable. Only by improving vaccination coverage across all communities can we ensure resilience against future disease threats.”

A spokesperson told NatioalWorld on Thursday this is the second phase of the booster campaign first announced last year, rather than a separate campaign. They confirmed the booster offer had ended, despite messaging on some council sites still saying it was "paused" for the time being. "This campaign is aimed at encouraging vaccination of children who are partially or unvaccinated."

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The UKHSA said a total of 135 poliovirus type 2 isolates have been identified in 30 sewage samples collected in London between February 8 and November 8 last year. While the sewage surveillance was expanded to cover the whole of London, to date the virus has mainly been detected in samples from North and East London.

In September, sewage surveillance was rolled out to 18 areas outside the capital on a precautionary basis to determine whether the virus had spread further. To date, the poliovirus found in London has not been detected at any of these sites.

Polio, which was officially eradicated in the UK in 2003, can cause paralysis in rare cases and can be life-threatening. The World Health Organisation requires evidence of 12 months of zero detections before the UK is no longer considered to be a polio “infected” country.

The UKHSA said no paralytic polio cases have been reported in patients in England, but added that there is still a risk it could cause paralysis in an unvaccinated individual.

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