While we’re on the topic of Vaccines in the CDC Schedule that Don’t Stop Transmission of the Disease They’re Named After, now would be a good time to stop saying “because polio” as justification for mandating every vaccine that comes to market.
I hate to burst your bubble (not really– I love it so much that I write this ish for free) but the Enhanced-Potency Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) that replaced the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) in 1999 doesn’t prevent transmitting polio. It’s been 17 years since we’ve used a polio-transmission-reduction vaccine in the US so if your kid is in high school or younger, they didn’t get a real polio vaccine, and they’re not protected from contracting polio.
In 1999 the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to completely replace OPV with IPV in order to “eliminate the risk of vaccine-associated paralytic poliomyelitis.” That’s a fancy way of admitting that the oral vaccine was the only cause of polio in America. See, the OPV was pretty good at preventing polio infection except when it caused polio in the person who received the vaccine, and then that person gave polio to a bunch of other people.
As far as the vaccine vs. improved sanitation argument goes, even the CDC admits that before the vaccine was available, improved sanitation was to thank for reduced exposure to the virus. Clean water and indoor plumbing were great for reducing initial polio infections but just like with chickenpox/shingles, the eradication of the “booster” that previously-infected people were getting from natural re-exposure was causing epidemics.
Even the Polio Global Eradication Initiative admits that the IPV “does not stop transmission of the virus.” They go on to say that “when a person immunized with IPV is infected with wild poliovirus, the virus can still multiply inside the intestines and be shed in the feces, risking continued circulation.” Get your polio vaccine, still catch polio, still give polio to the community.
So what’s it good for then? The current polio vaccine claims to be good at preventing the vaccinated person from developing severe polio symptoms. That’s it. You’re allegedly spared an iron lung but you aren’t contributing to any “community immunity” by vaccinating your child for polio grown in (you can trust them this time, it’s perfectly safe) monkey kidney cells.
Again, it’s their own personal seat belt in the event of an accident. Infants and toddlers can contract polio, grow a polio infection in their intestines, shed it in their bowel movements, and expose everyone who comes into contact with their diapers to wild polio. Which, thankfully we don’t have much of in this country and if we do, we make sure we call it by a different name.
I haven’t actually found any studies that show the efficacy of the post-1978 Enhanced-Potency IPV in preventing paralysis but feel free to leave a link in the comments if you know of one. The CDC’s pink book doesn’t claim any studies— it only says that the presence of antibodies correlates with protection against paralysis.
Wait, what was that saying about correlation and causation? Or is that expression only valid when used against parents of the vaccine injured?
The CDC also says they don’t know how long this supposed immunity lasts, but it’s “probably” a lifetime. Thanks for being so thorough, CDC.
Maybe you’re thinking that protecting your child from polio paralysis is the only reason you need to get the IPV and I totally understand your thinking. But you should know that 95% of all polio is symptom-free while paralytic polio happens less than 1% of the time.
By no means am I arguing for the return of the use of OPV in American children. India has been making headlines in recent years with its skyrocketing rate of “non-polio acute flaccid paralysis” that is strongly associated with the oral polio vaccine administered during their polio elimination campaign. India was declared polio-free in January 2011 while over 137,000 of her people suffered post-vaccine paralysis as collateral damage in just 2 1/2 years. Plus there’s the added bonus that people vaccinated with the OPV will shed polio in their bowel movements, which in developing countries are often deposited alongside the road, which then give polio to people who come in contact with it.
Sanitation is everything, isn’t it? Maybe we should give a little less gratitude to pharmaceutical companies and a lot more thanks to plumbers.
*Sexy plumber pic credit: picfor.me (you’re welcome, ladies).
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