Polio Vaccination

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Center for Disease Control
American Academy of Family Physicians
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The Associated Press: Tuesday April 14, 2009 -- The department of health reported the death of a woman infected with the live poliovirus used in the oral vaccine that was discontinued in the US nine years ago. The health department says the patient died with polio symptoms, but it's not known to what extent polio contributed to the death. The patient also had a weakened immune system and multiple health problems. The Minnesota department of health says the patient most likely became infected from someone who had received the live-virus vaccine before its use was stopped in the US.

Said Dr. Richard Bruno, chairperson of the International Post-Polio Task Force, "This sad death is the latest reminder that polio may be forgotten in the US, but that it is far from gone."

Alarming Drops in Polio Vaccination in US Border States and Ports of Entry.

Unfortunately, rates of polio vaccination have decreased in the US despite six other US polio cases since 2005 -- five of them in Minnesota -- caused by poliovirus imported into the US, and despite polio last month breaking free of vaccination efforts in Africa, with Kenya and Uganda reporting their first polio cases and deaths in twenty years."

The latest Centers for Disease Control data show drops in polio vaccination in twenty states and in ten large US cities," said Dr. Bruno, who is also director of The Post-Polio Institute at Englewood (NJ) Hospital and Medical Center. "CDC estimates that more than nearly one million US toddlers are unvaccinated."

"Even Minnesota has had a decrease in polio vaccination, which is obviously disturbing," said Dr. Bruno. "It is frightening that states with the largest drops lie next to Mexico and Canada, across whose borders the poliovirus is believed to have been imported into the US since 1997." Seventy percent of the states that border Canada had drops in polio vaccination, as did Arizona, Texas and New Mexico.

City Children Living in Poverty Have Lowest Polio Vaccination Rates.

Dr. Bruno is also concerned about cities that are major points of entry into the US -- New York, Philadelphia, Houston and Seattle -- where drops in polio vaccination were also reported.

"Toddlers living in poverty have the lowest polio vaccination rates -- below 87% in Boston, Indianapolis, Memphis and Phoenix, and below 85% in Detroit, Houston and Seattle -- rates lower than in Western Pacific countries that include Cambodia, Mongolia and Vietnam," said Dr. Bruno. "I'm worried that those who recently had polio in the US are canaries in the mine shaft."

"NIPP IT CAMPAIGN" Underscored by Minnesota Death.
(Click on the photo for a copy of this release.)

Rotary International has joined The International Post-Polio Task Force in the "National Immunization for Polio Prevention in Infants and Toddlers -- or 'NIPP IT' -- CAMPAIGN," to prompt parents, healthcare professionals and state health officials to ensure that all American children receive all doses of the injectable, inactivated polio vaccine by age two.

"The 'NIPP IT CAMPAIGN' is intended to raise awareness of the need for polio vaccination, to stop state legislatures from allowing parents to refuse vaccinations for their children because of "philosophically objections" to vaccines and hopefully 'nip' America's next polio epidemic in the bud," said Dr. Bruno.

The polio vaccine has been a victim of its own success. Young parents do not vaccinate because they have not experienced the devastation, death and disability caused by diseases that vaccines eliminated, or are unaware that polio remains a scourge that is readily transportable from Africa, Pakistan, Afghanistan and India.

"With the ease of air travel, what will happen when a polio-infected individual lands in one of America's potential polio pockets, like New York City, and passes poliovirus to the estimated 24,000 infants and toddlers in that city who are not immunized?" asked Dr. Bruno.

Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter agreed, "Our country has come so far to be protected against polio through universal vaccination. We cannot afford to relax our efforts because polio is still a real problem in parts of the world and can easily be transported back to the U.S. We cannot risk a single child to this terrible disease."

"We must do more to vaccinate America's children against this deadly and disabling disease," said Bruno. "America's next polio epidemic could be just a car, bus or plane ride away."