Vaccination Thoughts

by Mike Kosove

Medical College Professor and Polio Survivor

This morning as I was drinking my coffee, I picked up the newspaper and began to thumb through the headlines.  In bold was an article: “Measles on the rise here and abroad.”  The article quoted CDC: “more than 98% of Americans who’ve become infected were unvaccinated.  This isn’t the failure of the vaccine, but the failure to vaccinate”.  The article went on to say that measles was eliminated in this country and the rest of the Western Hemisphere in 2000.  Elimination doesn’t equate eradication.  One outbreak in Brooklyn struck 2 religious communities where parents shun vaccines for religious reasons.  In both cases people from the community traveled to other countries, contracted the disease, and brought it home.  I know what you’re thinking.  We had the same thoughts the moment I read the article!

More and more parents are opting not to have their children immunized against polio because of all the “vaccine hype” around.  To them polio is a thing of the past.  My kids don’t need it.  No one gets polio in the US anymore.  

Polio is a virus, and viruses are not alive.  They can remain in nature indefinitely.  When folks talk about the “live vaccine”, they mean a virus that has not been killed, but inactivated so that it will not cause disease, but still provide an immune response (Sabin vaccine).  Polio is still here, immunized. Unlike measles (when you contract the virus, you get the signs and symptoms of measles.)

Polio is different.  Polio is an enterovirus (gut virus).  When it gets into the bloodstream, it travels to the nervous system; if the person has the specific receptor sites for Polio virus in the nerve cells, the person will be affected.  If there are no receptor sites, the person will be polio symptom free, but probably have a “bad stomach” as we say.  Since the population with these receptor sites is extremely small (it’s genetic), few people who come in contact with the polio virus at any one time will have symptoms.  Most everyone, not immunized, who comes in contact with the measles virus will get measles.

It’s important for us to educate our communities to the importance of the polio vaccines.  If a parent says to you,” What are the odds that without the vaccine my child will contact polio?”  Your answer is very simple: “The odds are way greater than the odds of winning lotto.  But someone eventually wins lotto.  When your child, sitting in a wheel chair asks, “Why can’t I walk and play  like the other kids?”  

---- Think about it!!!!!”     

Warning!      The Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization have new Traveler Vaccination Guidelines for Polio.  It takes only one exposed traveler from Afghanistan, Nigeria, or Pakistan, to bring the virus home to the US.  There is some danger from cross-border countries to those 3 nations and to Egypt and Syria.  Travelers who may have risk working in health-care settings, humanitarian groups, or refugee camps should definitely receive an adult IPV booster shot!

“There is no reason that anybody in today’s world should have polio.  It’s just ridiculous!”
Itzak Perlman
Perlman has been paralyzed with polio since the age of four.