I’ve recently gotten several people asking me about this outbreak and wondering if they should get their children vaccinated for polio so I decided it would be worthwhile to address this in a short blog post as thoroughly as I can while my husband has the boys out for ice cream.

One of the people who came to me with a question was a young mother who had just that day taken her baby in for a well check and her pediatrician had informed her there was a “polio epidemic currently in the US” and she was strongly encouraged to reconsider her choice not to vaccinate her baby. She came to me because she was sure there was more to the story. She was right.

In June of this year, a resident of NY was confirmed to have the first case of polio we’ve experienced in the US for the past 10 years. [1]

He was tested to see what strain of polio it was by the CDC which reported that it was polio Sabin type 2 virus. [2]

The man was unvaccinated according to most reports, but the Sabin strain is from the oral polio vaccine. So either he travelled and was exposed to someone who had recently been vaccinated by the OPV, or someone who had been recently vaccinated with OPV travelled to NY (not unlikely) and he was exposed there. Either way, the origin of the disease was a recently vaccinated person.

Vaccine strain polio has been a greater issue than wild polio for years now. [3] The World Health Organization has removed public tracking of polio outbreaks as of 2020, but before that, one was able to scroll through locations and see which ones were caused by wild polio versus vaccine strain. I saved an archived version of this page that dates back to 2000. Scrolling through is an eye opening exercise as you realize 26 of the last 28 outbreaks around the world dating back to 2014 were caused by vaccine strain polio. [4]

If you believe the fact checkers at Newsweek, “Cases of vaccine derived polio have increased in recent years. In 2020, there were 1,081 cases of vaccine-derived polio recorded worldwide. This was triple the number of cases recorded in 2019. According to Reuters reports from August 16, there have been 177 cases so far in 2022. This has triggered authorities to launch renewed vaccination campaigns.” [5] (that last line is my favorite 😂)

Given this fact, unless the strain is specifically identified as wild polio in any and all outbreaks here or around the world, it is safe to assume it’s vaccine strain. We know that in 2017, there were only two cases of wild type paralytic polio in the entire world. If that isn’t eradication of a disease, we can be sure we will never achieve that goal while using vaccines that shed and spread the very thing we’re trying to prevent.

Polio is primarily spread through the fecal/oral route, which is why it’s now circulating in the NY water systems. [6] I don’t actually think that once the sewage water is treated and “safe to drink”, even if the virus survives all of that it would actually be capable of causing disease, but that might be another good reason to avoid tap water in big cities. But the reason the oral vaccine was discontinued here in the US back in 2000 was because they kept finding the virus in water systems along with the fact that the recently vaccinated can shed it directly to those around them for up to two months. [7, 8]

So we have one person who showed symptoms and some contaminated sewage water. I think that qualifies as an outbreak, but labeling it an “epidemic in the US” is a stretch.

Did you know only 1 of 200 (or 1 in 2000 depending on strain) people infected with polio will experience paralysis? [9] A larger number experience flu like symptoms and an even larger number don’t experience symptoms at all.

Let’s go over the limitations of the inactivated vaccines we use currently and then I’ll be done. First of all, we do not attribute the eradication of polio here in the US to the inactivated vaccines. That honor goes to the OPVs even though they’ve been admittedly problematic with actually being the source of disease spread around the world in the past few years and now here in the US as well.

The inactivated vaccines do not protect against transmission. A randomized placebo based control trial was done on children in Cuba (one wonders what the “informed consent” looked like for these kids as they were deliberately exposed to polio after being injected with IPV). Children in all of the groups (including those vaccinated) were found to have high counts of the virus in their stool, thus proving that when people who have been vaccinated with the inactivated vaccines are exposed to the virus (such as by someone recently vaccinated with an oral vaccine), they are capable of shedding that in their stool despite being “protected”. [10]

So as long as we continue to vaccinate people around the world with an oral vaccine that causes and initiates the spread of the disease we’re trying to prevent, and we’re injecting people here with inactivated vaccines that cannot stop transmission, and as long as people travel between those two locations, this is a likely and easily expected scenario and not likely to end anytime soon no matter how many people get vaccinated and revaccinated with the IPV.

If you want to know why this doesn’t worry me, please read up on the complicated history of polio. I recommend the books ‘The Moth in the Iron Lung’ by Forrest Marready and ‘Dissolving Illusions’ by Suzanne Humphries, MD.

Or you could read my thoughts on the topic here and here.

  1. https://www.foxnews.com/health/new-york-county-confirms-case-polio
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/71/wr/pdfs/mm7133e2-H.pdf
  3. https://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/polio-cases-now-caused-vaccine-wild-virus-67287290
  4. https://web.archive.org/web/20210323062125/https://www.who.int/csr/don/archive/disease/poliomyelitis/en/
  5. https://www.newsweek.com/fact-check-vaccine-derived-polio-causing-spike-cases-west-1736141
  6. https://www.reuters.com/world/us/polio-virus-found-new-york-city-wastewater-suggesting-local-transmission-2022-08-12/
  7. https://www.foxnews.com/health/polio-oral-vaccine-us-stopped-using-years-ago
  8. https://extranet.who.int/pqweb/file/19001896/download
  9. https://www.cdc.gov/polio/what-is-polio/index.htm
  10. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa054960

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