‘Very real risk’: Health chiefs urge parents to get their children vaccinated against polio to prevent it spreading across London

Jabs are being offered to children aged one to 11

Children are to be vaccinated against polio in a bid to stop it spreading – as health bosses warned that “nobody wants this illness for their child”.

The renewed vaccine programme comes after polio was found in 30 sewage samples in north-east London last year, including in Hackney.

The NHS initially launched an urgent jab rollout that reached more than 375,000 children between August and the middle of March. Around half of those vaccines were given in the first two months.

But the city’s health chiefs said there are still children who are not fully up to date and could be at risk of catching polio.

Last summer, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said the UK had a ‘circulating’ form of the virus that can, in rare cases, cause paralysis in people who are not fully protected. There is no cure for polio.

The last case in the UK was in 1984 and the discovery in London’s sewage system last year raised the alarm, with further tests ordered in 20 other towns across England. No other samples were found.

The virus recently caused paralysis in people in the USA and Israel.

Polio can also lead to symptoms such as fever, headaches and muscle pain, as well as complications that affect the brain and nerves.

Hackney’s Spring Hill Surgery urged people to get the vaccine because “poliovirus can be carried without showing any symptoms and easily transmitted from person to person”.

It added: “Poliovirus is a life-threatening infection of the nerves that can cause serious disability, permanent paralysis, or even death.”

However, doctors there said it is “preventable, and immunisation is the best protection”.

Children aged one to 11 who are not up to date with their vaccinations are being offered jabs through their parents or carers. The vaccine also covers measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).

The number of cases of measles in London is growing and there were 33 confirmed cases between 1 January and 20 April this year. Ten children between one and four-years-old have had it, along with 10 adults.

Dr Yvonne Young, the regional deputy director for the UK Health Security Agency London, said: “Poliovirus has the potential to spread where vaccine uptake is low and there is currently a very real risk of this for some of our communities in London. Measles is also currently circulating in London.

“Both infections are entirely preventable and the vaccines give excellent protection. Polio and measles can have tragic consequences if you are not vaccinated and can lead to serious long-term health problems. Nobody wants this for their child so if anyone in your family is not fully vaccinated, it’s important to catch up as soon as possible.”

People can also contact their GPs to make sure their families are up to date with their vaccinations in this latest campaign.

Vaccine rates in London lag behind other parts of the country, with only 74 per cent of people fully vaccinated against MMR and 73 per cent against polio by the age of five. This is well below the 95 per cent WHO target, which is designed to ensure the illnesses remain eliminated.