NEWS

How to Know If You Are Fully Vaccinated Against Polio

vaccine booster

Verywell Health / Tara Anand

Key Takeaways

  • Since there’s no national vaccine registry in the United States, verifying whether or not you were vaccinated against polio is tricky.
  • Checking with your pediatrician’s office or your state’s vaccine registry is a good place to start.
  • Most public schools require childhood vaccinations and you can check if your school’s list of requirements for your peace of mind.

After the poliovirus was detected in New York City’s wastewater, many young adults have been trying out find out if they’ve been fully vaccinated against polio.

You’re likely vaccinated already since polio was eradicated in the United States in the 1970s thanks to widespread vaccinations. Although the easiest way to confirm is to ask your parents, they may not remember or have your vaccination records on hand.

Many elementary schools or preschools also require polio vaccination for entry. Although you may not be able to obtain a copy of your record, you can check your school’s list of vaccine requirements for your peace of mind.

If you want to check your actual records, you can start by contacting your pediatrician’s office. You can also try to request old vaccination records from your home state or city if it has an Immunization Information System (IIS) in place.

In New York City, you can request your records online. New York State also has an IIS, but since it was established in 2008, it may not have records prior to that year.

For people who immigrated to the U.S. or became permanent residents, the polio vaccine is a required vaccination.

Polio Vaccinations

The inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) is a four-dose series administered at ages 2 months, 4 months, 6–18 months, and 4–6 years. For adults who have never been vaccinated, the CDC recommends getting three doses of IPV. If you’ve had three shots or more in the past and you’re traveling to a high-risk area, you can seek out a booster dose. You can check the recommended immunization schedule on CDC’s website.

Why Isn’t There a National Vaccine Registry?

In the U.S., there’s no national organization that maintains vaccination records, which makes tracking childhood vaccinations difficult.

The refusal to establish a national vaccine registry is largely due to politics and the historical fears of government surveillance, according to William Schaffner, MD, a professor of infectious diseases at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“If we had a national registry, everybody would have to have a number,” Schaffner told Verywell. “People were so fearful of the government that they didn’t want that.”

Although there’s no federal vaccine registry, most states keep vaccine records for children. If people move to a different state, though, vaccine information is not shared among different registries, Schaffner said.

“For many people who no longer live in their communities, or whose pediatricians may have retired or passed on, it’s not always easy to find out your immunization record,” he said.

Should You Get a Polio Booster?

While the news of a polio comeback is concerning, it doesn’t mean that everyone needs to get a booster shot right away.

“If you’ve been vaccinated, we think that polio vaccine protection extends throughout life,” Schaffner said.

For people who’re unsure or have family members with religious or moral exemptions for vaccinations, it can’t hurt to get another shot, he added.

“I always tell the doctors: when in doubt, vaccinate,” Schaffner said.

If you have any concerns, you should have individual conversations with your healthcare providers, he suggested. And if you’re a parent or a guardian who delayed your children’s vaccinations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you should get your kids up-to-date with polio vaccination as soon as possible, he said.

What This Means For You

A polio case was identified in New York State and the virus was found in New York City’s wastewater samples. If you’ve never been vaccinated against polio, you should get up-to-date with your vaccination per CDC’s recommendations.

1 Source
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Polio vaccination: what everyone should know.

By Claire Wolters
Claire Wolters is a staff reporter covering health news for Verywell. She is most passionate about stories that cover real issues and spark change.