U.S. Panel Urges End of
Oral Polio Vaccine
By Mike Cooper

ATLANTA - A U.S. advisory panel voted Thursday to shift completely to vaccinating children against polio with shots rather than sugar cubes because oral vaccine in use since 1965 was causing a small number of polio cases.
An advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that beginning next year children be injected only with a vaccine made from an inactivated form of polio virus, instead of being given sugar cubes with the oral vaccine made from live virus.
If the recommendation is accepted by the CDC, four shots would be recommended for children - at 2 months, 4 months, 6 to 18 months and then at 4 to 6 years old.
Federal health officials began the shift toward the inactivated polio vaccine in January 1997, when they recommended shots at 2 and 4 months of age followed by two doses of oral vaccine as children got older.
Before January 1997, they recommended children receive four doses of the oral vaccine.
"Both vaccines protect the individual very well. The difference is that the oral polio vaccine is easier to administer and is better to use in an epidemic setting, which is what we had in the 1950s and 1960s," CDC spokeswoman Barbara Reynolds said.
"Now, with no epidemic polio in this country, it's perfectly legitimate to move to an inactivated polio vaccine," she said.
The CDC said that since 1979, the only polio cases reported in the United States were the eight to 10 cases caused every year by the weakened but still live virus in the oral vaccine.
Phasing out the oral vaccine reduced the number of vaccine-associated polio cases to four in 1997 and one in 1998, the agency said.
In its 8 to 1 vote Thursday, the committee said that the oral polio vaccine could still be used, but only in special circumstances.
The CDC said that the oral vaccine is more effective in protecting against epidemics, but it said the risk of a polio epidemic in the United States was so small, it was outweighed by the risk of illnesses from the vaccine.
Health officials said that all children still need to be vaccinated for polio until the illness is eradicated worldwide.
The CDC said that if polio vaccinations were stopped in the United States, millions of children would become susceptible within a year. Since wild polio infection still occurs in many parts of the world, the virus could be imported and cause a U.S. epidemic, it said.