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Live Polio Vaccine Voted Out

Updated March 07, 2022

LIVE POLIO VACCINE VOTED OUT - At a June 20, 1996 meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the Centers for Disease Control, members of the federal vaccine policymaking panel voted to move away from use of the live oral polio vaccine (OPV) and toward increased use of the injectable inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) in order to cut down on the number of cases of polio disease caused by OPV in the U.S. each year. Although this action may reduce the number of vaccine associated polio cases in children and adults who swallow live OPV, it will have little effect on the cases of vaccine associated polio that occur in children and adults who get polio by coming into contact with the body fluids of a person who has recently swallowed live OPV. On September 18, 1996, Dr. David Satcher, Director of the CDC accepted the recommendation.

Historic Policy Change - ACIP's vote marked an historic change in America's 32-year old policy of vaccinating all babies with four to five doses of live OPV, the vaccine which has been credited by health officials with eliminating wild polio disease from the western hemisphere but, today, is the only cause of polio in America. Because IPV is not "live" and is reputed to be incapable of giving vaccine recipients or close contacts polio, ACIP maintains that two doses of IPV will provide babies with polio antibodies without the risk of getting the disease and that babies will also be protected from getting polio from future doses of live OPV. However, ACIP also stated that an all-OPV or all-IPV schedule is also acceptable.

Moms Can Still Get Polio - Many parents of OPV damaged children, OPV damaged adults, as well as survivors of wild polio epidemics in the 1940's and 50's are not satisfied with ACIP's new recommendations. Like Lenita Shaefer, who got "contact" polio from her OPV vaccinated daughter in 1988, they want the live polio vaccine taken off the market and only IPV used in America. They maintain that ACIP's policy change will not prevent parents, babysitters or other children without antibodies to polio from getting polio after coming into close contact with a recently OPV-vaccinated child whose body fluids and waste products can "shed" the live polio virus for weeks following vaccination. Lenita told scientists at a 1995 Institute of Medicine Vaccine Safety Workshop that "No one had the right to immunize me without my consent. Now I am paralyzed for life for something I never agreed to receive. Immunization without consent invades my right of privacy as protected by the constitution. This insult is worsened by the fact that the only polio in this country since 1979 has been caused by the oral vaccine and most of the cases are contact polio like the one I have."

Parents Make Pleas - John Salamone, whose six year old son, David, got polio when he was just a few months old from an OPV vaccination, has spearheaded a public campaign to replace OPV with IPV to prevent vaccine associated polio. John told the panel that "It has been more than 15 years since a case of naturally occurring polio has been found in the U.S.; yet we can fill this room with Americans who have contracted polio from the oral vaccine since then.... In 1996, can we honestly look into the faces of parents whose children will contract vaccine-related polio this year and say we did our best?" Standing by her four year old OPV damaged son, Gordon, who sat paralyzed in a wheelchair on a respirator, Susan Pierson told the panel "Little did we know how our actions for our son would have the exact opposite effect. We thought we were doing what was in Gordon's best interest."

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