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Is There a Potential Benefit to Seasonal Polio Vaccination?

Micaela Martinez, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University, explains the potential benefit to administering the polio vaccines seasonally.

Micaela Martinez, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University, explains the potential benefit to administering the polio vaccines seasonally.

Interview Transcript (slightly modified for readability)

“So the question is, as we are using both of the polio vaccines and transitioning from the oral polio vaccine, OPV, to IPV, the injectable vaccine, whether or not we might look into strategies where we give OPV during the summertime when polio’s being transmitted and give IPV during the wintertime, the low season for polio.

I’ll be honest, I’ve actually never thought of that strategy. Up until very recently, countries have either relied on one or the other and I, myself, have not really thought about launching the two vaccines seasonally, but that is a really interesting idea, especially given that OPV, the oral polio vaccine, one of the reasons it works so well is that it’s live, so it contains live virus that has been grown at cold temperatures, and so it’s a weakened form of the virus.

When you’re given OPV, you’re being given weakened polio and it stimulates immunity and it replicates in that person and also that person will transmit the virus from the vaccine. So [these vaccinated individuals will] actually indirectly vaccinate other individuals. One of the reasons [this vaccine is] thought to work so well is because it’s actually being transmitted through the community; it’s like community vaccination.

There have been some epidemiologists that have suggested [that] that’s why oral polio vaccination works so well in Latin America in the summertime, because you are essentially getting so much bank for your buck; you go and give it out to some people and then it spreads and it’s great for everyone.

Giving that vaccine seasonally has been something that has been on my mind and is an idea that’s been around for a long time, but in terms of IPV, I haven’t thought very carefully about that.”