How To Check If You (Or Your Children) Have Had The Polio Vaccine

Public health officials have declared a national incident.
Yana Tatevosian / 500px via Getty Images

People are being urged to ensure their polio vaccines are up to date after an outbreak of the virus was detected in UK sewage samples.

Polio, which was officially eradicated in the UK in 2003, can cause paralysis in rare cases and can be life-threatening. Public health officials have declared a national incident while the latest traces are being investigated.

Polio is caused by a virus that spreads easily when an infected person coughs or sneezes, according to the NHS. It can also be caught from food or water that’s been in contact with the poo of someone who has the virus.

So far, it’s unclear how many people may be affected by the new outbreak, but being fully vaccinated will protect you. Here’s how to check if you (and your kids) are up to date with jabs.

When do people usually receive the polio vaccine?

The polio vaccine is given on the NHS when a child is eight, 12 and 16 weeks old as part of the 6-in-1 vaccine. It is given again at three years and four months old as part of the 4-in-1 (DTaP/IPV) pre-school booster, and at 14 as part of the 3-in-1 (Td/IPV) teenage booster. The teenage vaccine is given routinely in secondary schools.

All of these vaccines need to have been given for a person to be fully vaccinated, though babies who have had two or three doses will have substantial protection.

Latest figures show that by the age of two in the UK, almost 95% of children have had the correct number of doses. However, this drops to just under 90% in London. When it comes to the pre-school booster, just 71% of children in London have had it by the age of five.

How to check if you’ve had the polio vaccine

All immunisation records are linked to your unique NHS number, which is assigned to you at birth.

You may be able to see your full health records (including your immunisation history) via the NHS app or NHS online portal, if you’ve already registered for full online access.

You’ll need to register with your GP surgery for online access to see your full record. If you only downloaded the NHS app to see your Covid travel pass, for example, the basic profile only shows your Covid vaccines, medicines and allergies – not your full medical history.

There’s a portal on the NHS website which details further instructions on how to register for full online access to your records. But something to note: this service works alongside GP surgeries and is not yet available in all areas of the UK.

If you’re having trouble accessing your records online, or your surgery does not offer this service, you’ll need to contact your GP to enquire about your polio records via email or telephone.

A polio vaccine will not be labelled as ‘polio’

When you do access your records, don’t panic: a polio vaccine is rarely labelled with the name ‘polio’.

On Twitter, GP and broadcaster Dr Ellie Cannon shared the labels to look out for:

You can get the polio vaccine at any time

Although it’s recommended that people have the polio vaccine in infancy, you can have the jabs at any point.

“You should also get vaccinated even if you’ve had polio before as it protects against different types of polio,” says the NHS.

The polio vaccine is provided for free via the NHS, so don’t delay getting your jab.