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Experts Recommend Polio Boosters for Adults

According to scientists, while most adults were vaccinated against the disease when they were children, the immunity provided for by the vaccines has since been reduced and needs to be revamped.

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Health experts are encouraging persons above the age of 18 years to get booster polio vaccines.

The call comes at a time when the country has an active vaccine-derived polio outbreak. The outbreak was declared by the health minister last month after positive samples were detected at water treatment sites in the country.

Investigations carried out by the health ministry to determine the source of the disease are still inconclusive.


As government organizes to carry out a mass polio vaccination exercise in October and November, vaccinologists are now encouraging adults who think they might have been exposed to get booster doses.



According to scientists, while most adults were vaccinated against the disease when they were children, the immunity provided for by the vaccines has since been reduced and needs to be revamped.


Sharon Otoori, a vaccinologist at Jabez Vaccination Clinic says during an outbreak, adults are as susceptible to being infected as children.

Otoori says this since oral polio vaccines that are widely used in the country wear out after a specific period and do not offer protection forever.

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In Uganda, four doses of polio vaccines are administered to children, at birth, six, ten and fourteen weeks. The World Health Organization's Expanded Programme of Immunization however recommends the consumption of more than four doses in polio-endemic countries with poor hygiene practices for lifetime protection.

Dr Immaculate Ampaire, the Deputy Manager of the Uganda National Expanded Programme of Immunization says adults receiving the boosters are ideal.

She says due to a shortage of resources, the country cannot afford to offer booster doses to adults.

"With polio, the more doses you get the better. Here we usually target the vulnerable-the under-fives because of resources but in other countries, they do vaccines for all. They vaccinate everyone entering. This is the best practice really and the vaccine is safe," Dr Ampaire said.

According to Otoori, booster doses are normally taken by Ugandans who are going abroad to work. On the market, there are two options for adults booster doses available. One is Hexaxim-a combination of vaccines that protects against diphtheria, tetanus, Pertussis, hepatitis B, poliomyelitis and Haemophilus influenza type b conjugate vaccine.

The other option is getting a shot of the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) which is injected into the body. The hexaxim vaccine costs on average 180,000 shillings while the IPV can be accessed free of charge at all government health facilities. 


"Adults can go and get the jab but we normally do not focus on them because we believe children are more at risk of being infected. But those adults who need the jab can go and get it but this is at the discretion of the health worker. If they think you need it, they might recommend it. It is on a case by case basis," Dr Ampaire said.