Inactivated polio vaccine (IPV)

Alternative names
Polio immunization (vaccine); Salk vaccine

Polio immunization protects against a severe, paralyzing disease caused by poliovirus.


Polio is a severe, contagious, life-threatening disease of childhood that can cause lasting paralysis, usually of the legs. It usually affects children under 5 years of age.

The entire body, including the breathing muscles, may become paralyzed within hours after the onset of the illness. This can be deadly if the child is not placed on a ventilator for artificial respiration.

No polio has been found in the United States for more than 20 years, but polio is still common in some parts of the world. In a sense, the disease is only one plane flight away - it would only take one case of polio entering from another country to bring the disease back to the US. Anyone who has not been vaccinated would be at risk.

Experts hope polio will be eliminated worldwide in a few years, and that soon these vaccines will no longer be necessary. In the meantime, this vaccine is important.

The Salk vaccine is an inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) that was developed by Dr. Jonas Salk in 1955. It consists of injections of inactivated (dead) polio virus. IPV cannot cause polio.


Polio vaccination is one of the recommended childhood immunizations and vaccination should begin during infancy. In most parts of the US, polio immunization is required before a child can start school.

Children should receive 4 doses of IPV: one dose each at ages 2 months, 4 months, 6 - 18 months, and 4 - 6 years. Children who have received 3 doses of IPV before age 4 should receive a fourth dose before or at the time of school entry. The fourth dose is not needed if the third dose is given on or after the fourth birthday.

The first and second doses of the IPV are necessary to provide a primary immune response, and the third and fourth doses raise the strength of the antibody to high levels.

Once the initial series of vaccinations is complete, adults are NOT routinely given booster vaccinations unless they are likely to be exposed to the disease (for example, if they plan to travel to an area where polio is currently occurring).

For almost everyone, the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks.


People who have had severe allergic (anaphylactic) reactions after a previous dose of IPV, or to streptomycin, polymyxin B, or neomycin, should not receive IPV. If a pregnant woman is at increased risk for infection and requires immediate protection, IPV should be administered in accordance with the recommended schedules for adults. Although have been no reported adverse effects in women who have received IPV during pregnancy, IPV should be avoided during pregnancy if possible.

IPV can be given to the following people who might have some concerns about vaccination:

  • Women who are breast-feeding  
  • Children with diarrhea  
  • Anyone who:       o Has minor upper respiratory illness, with or without fever       o Has had mild to moderate local reactions to a previous dose of vaccine       o Is taking antimicrobial therapy       o Is in the improvement stage of an acute illness

People who are moderately or severely ill should usually wait until they have recovered before receiving the vaccine.


IPV may cause mild soreness and redness at the site of the injection. This is usually not severe and lasts only a few days. There are usually no other symptoms and no other care is needed after immunization.


  • You are uncertain whether polio immunization should be given, particularly if there are conditions where immunization may need to be delayed or not given  
  • An allergic reaction or other symptoms develop after polio immunization  
  • You have other questions or concerns about polio immunization


Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 2, 2012
by Arthur A. Poghosian, M.D.

Medical Encyclopedia

  A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z | 0-9

All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.