Rockland County hosts polio vaccine clinic after 1st US case in nearly a decade

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Friday, July 22, 2022
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Rockland County hosted a polio vaccination clinic one day after announcing the first documented case in the United States in nearly a decade. Marcus Solis has the details.

ROCKLAND COUNTY, New York (WABC) -- Rockland County hosted a polio vaccination clinic Friday, one day after announcing the first documented case in the United States in nearly a decade.

The vaccinations were given out at the Pomona Health Complex (Building A) at 50 Sanatorium Road in Pomona from 10 a.m. to noon.

A second clinic at the same location will be held on Monday, July 25, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

New Yorkers can pre-register for a free appointment at the Rockland County website or call 845-238-1956 to schedule. Walk-ins will also be accepted.

Vaccines are also available through local healthcare providers.

Anyone who is unvaccinated, has not completed their polio vaccine series, or are concerned they have might have been exposed is urged to get vaccinated at the clinics.

Individuals who are already vaccinated but are at risk of exposure should receive a booster, which is also available at the clinics.

"We want shots in the arms of those who need it," Rockland County Health Commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert said at a Thursday news conference.

The New York State and Rockland County departments of health confirmed a case of polio in the county Thursday, prompting officials to advise medical practitioners and healthcare providers to be vigilant for additional cases.

The patient was identified only as an unvaccinated young adult who lives in Rockland County and had developed paralysis, but it was unknown if it was permanent.

The person, no longer deemed contagious, developed symptoms a month ago and did not recently travel outside the country, county health officials said.

It appears the patient had a vaccine-derived strain of the virus, likely from someone who got the live oral vaccine no longer given in the U.S. but frequently used in other countries.

Since the person had not traveled, investigators are trying to figure out how the infection occurred and whether other people were exposed to the virus.

As the polio vaccine continues to be included on the CDC's standard child immunization schedule, those already vaccinated are considered to be at lower risk.

"This isn't normal. We don't want to see this," said Jennifer Nuzzo, a Brown University pandemic researcher. "If you're vaccinated, it's not something you need to worry about. But if you haven't gotten your kids vaccinated, it's really important that you make sure they're up to date."

The polio vaccine is part of the required school immunization schedule for all children, and therefore school-age children are vaccinated before they start school.

Polio was once one of the nation's most feared diseases, with annual outbreaks causing thousands of cases of paralysis. The disease mostly affects children.

Vaccines became available starting in 1955, and a national vaccination campaign cut the annual number of U.S. cases to less than 100 in the 1960s and fewer than 10 in the 1970s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 1979, polio was declared eliminated in the U.S., meaning there was no longer routine spread.

Rarely, travelers have brought polio infections into the U.S. The last such case was in 2013, when a 7-month-old who had recently moved to the U.S. from India was diagnosed in San Antonio, Texas, according the federal health officials. That child also had the type of polio found in the live form of vaccine used in other countries.

There are two types of polio vaccines. The U.S. and many other countries use shots made with an inactivated version of the virus. But some countries where polio has been more of a recent threat use a weakened live virus that is given to children as drops in the mouth. In rare instances, the weakened virus can mutate into a form capable of sparking new outbreaks.

Federal officials recommend four doses: to be given at 2 months of age; 4 months; at 6 to 18 months; and at age 4 through 6 years. Some states require only three doses.

According to the CDC's most recent childhood vaccination data, about 93% of 2-year-olds had received at least three doses of polio vaccine.

Polio spreads mostly from person to person or through contaminated water. It can infect a person's spinal cord, causing paralysis and possibly permanent disability and death.

Polio is endemic in Afghanistan and Pakistan, although numerous countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia have also reported cases in recent years.

Rockland County, in New York City's northern suburbs, has been a center of vaccine resistance in recent years. A 2018-2019 measles outbreak there infected 312 people.

Last month, health officials in Britain warned parents to make sure children have been vaccinated because the polio virus had been found in London sewage samples. No cases of paralysis were reported.

For more information on polio, including symptoms and spread, visit the New York State Department of Health website.

New Yorkers can learn more about the polio vaccine available at the CDC website.

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