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What you need to know about polio vaccine and its effects

Polio, also called poliomyelitis, is a serious condition that’s caused by the poliovirus. It spreads from person to person and can affect your brain and spinal cord, leading to paralysis. While there’s no cure for polio, the polio vaccine can prevent it. For this reason, the government over the years has conducted nationwide polio vaccination campaigns to eradicate the condition.

Two weeks ago, the government conducted a polio vaccination campaign in Nairobi and 10 other counties. However, parents have expressed concern over serious side effects they claim their children manifest after getting the new round of the recently concluded polio vaccination. The process, which was conducted by the Ministry of Health, now it emerges has led to some children developing adverse side effects including convulsion, diarrhoea, fever and vomiting.

Aleena Ashioya, whose three-year-old son was vaccinated at school, said her child became unwell with occasional shoot up of temperatures and irritability. More complaints kept coming on social media as many parents registered concern and associated the effects to the vaccine. The Ministry of Health has, however, denied any connection of the symptoms to the vaccine.

But do polio vaccines have any side effects, regardless? Dr Wangare Njuguna, a general practitioner says the vaccine usually doesn’t cause any side effects. And when it does, they are typically mild. However, in rare cases, a child can get an allergic reaction to the vaccine, which goes away within a few days. The most common side effects include soreness near the injection site, redness near the injection site and low-grade fever.

She says the body’s immune system helps protect against pathogens that cause infection. “It either keeps microorganisms out or tracks them down and gets rid of them. When not vaccinated, pathogens can overwhelm the immune system thus predisposing one to polio,” she explains. She advises parents not to ignore the call for vaccination, and if they do not trust the door-to-door vaccination, they can visit a hospital and ask for one.

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