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Polio Vaccination Changes Sought

Thu., Oct. 19, 1995

The government Wednesday recommended changing the way children have been vaccinated against polio for more than three decades, urging that the familiar sugar cubes and liquid be combined with two injections.

Under new federal guidelines, children would be injected in their first year with two shots of inactivated polio vaccine - a stronger version of the vaccine using killed polio virus that was invented by Dr. Jonas Salk.

The shots would be followed by two doses of oral vaccine in the second year. Most children now get three doses of oral vaccine by age 2.

The recommendations aim to reduce the risk of children getting the paralyzing disease from the vaccine itself.

Salk’s vaccine, which carries no risk of infecting children with polio, was declared “effective” in 1955. By 1961, Dr. Albert Sabin’s oral vaccine, made from live but weakened polio virus, was granted a license.

The oral vaccine was found to provide greater immunity. But there’s a cost - the oral vaccine causes about eight cases of polio a year in the United States.

The policy takes effect when the CDC publishes its decision in February, but the agency expects it won’t be implemented widely until 1997, after doctors and parents are educated about the change.

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