Unwelcome Return of Polio with More than Two Dozen Cases Recently Being Reported

With polio cases reappearing in the United States after decades of it being eliminated – the Alabama Department of Public Health is urging families to make sure children are vaccinated against the disease.  A polio case was identified in Rockland County, New York, last month and the virus has since been detected in the wastewater in New York City.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official told CNN last week that the case – which appeared in a community with very low vaccination rates, is “just the very, very tip of the iceberg,”  While no cases have been reported in Alabama routine vaccination rates for children including polio immunizations, have dropped since the onset of the COVID pandemic.

Among school-aged children, polio vaccinations have decreased by 10% from 2019-21 – and 9% for children ages three and under.  From 2019 to 2021 child vaccination rates for 16 diseases that are routinely vaccinated against dropped by 26%.  The polio vaccine, which was introduced in 1955, is 99% effective against the virus.  In 1994, the World Health Organization declared the Americas to be polio-free.

Alabama state law requires that children be current on vaccinations before enrolling in childcare centers and/or schools.  Required vaccines include polio, as well as diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, Haemophilus influenzae type b and chickenpox – and “Certificates of Immunization” must be presented to schools at the beginning of the school year; only medical and religious exemptions for vaccination are allowed.


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