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Urgent polio booster for all children aged 1-9 in London

by Julie Griffiths
12 August 2022

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Practices are to deliver a dose of polio vaccine to children aged 1 to 9 in London by the end of September, authorities have said.

NHS England and UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said in a letter to ICBs that delivery of the boosters should start ‘no later than 15 August, with all one to nine year olds having been offered a vaccination by 26 September’.

It added that the polio booster programme should be considered ‘equivalent priority’ to other time-sensitive vaccine programmes including Covid-19 and flu.

GPs have been asked to prioritise the 160,000 children in North and East London, followed by offering appointments to all 905,000 eligible children in London by the end of September.

But London GP leaders have said the scale and timing of the polio booster campaign is a cause for ‘substantial concern’.

The polio booster announcement came after the discovery of the virus in sewage from North and East London.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) then advised that a targeted inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) booster dose should be offered across all London boroughs.

Earlier this year, type 2 poliovirus (PV2) was found in the Beckton sewage treatment works and further testing was undertaken by UKHSA and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Now at least one positive sample of the poliovirus has been found in parts of eight boroughs. They are: Barnet, Brent, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Islington, and Waltham Forest.

The booster campaign is to begin in these London boroughs as a priority before rapidly extending to all London boroughs. The letter said: ‘Rollout beyond these initial boroughs will begin within a week of the start of the programme.’

The letter said that contractual and payment arrangements were being shared directly with providers.

But Londonwide LMCs said in a bulletin that there was ‘no central resourcing available at practice level beyond the standard £10.06 IoS fee’, even though ‘significant additional time’ would be required in delivering the jabs.

And, aside from the funding, there were insufficient staff numbers to administer the vaccinations in the time frame set out, it said.

Londonwide LMCs said that they had escalated concerns to BMA England’s GP Committee.

UKHSA consultant epidemiologist Dr Vanessa Saliba said that no cases of polio have been reported as yet. For the majority of the population, who are fully vaccinated, the risk is low, she said.

‘But we know the areas in London where the poliovirus is being transmitted have some of the lowest vaccination rates. This is why the virus is spreading in these communities and puts those residents not fully vaccinated at greater risk,’ said Dr Saliba.

Some parts of this story were reported by our sister publication Pulse.