Vaccine policy changes and epidemiology of poliomyelitis in the United States

JAMA. 2004 Oct 13;292(14):1696-701. doi: 10.1001/jama.292.14.1696.


Context: The last case of poliomyelitis in the United States due to indigenously acquired wild poliovirus occurred in 1979; however, as a consequence of oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV) use that began in 1961, an average of 9 cases of vaccine-associated paralytic poliomyelitis (VAPP) were confirmed each year from 1961 through 1989. To reduce the VAPP burden, national vaccination policy changed in 1997 from reliance on OPV to options for a sequential schedule of inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) followed by OPV. In 2000, an exclusive IPV schedule was adopted.

Objective: To review the epidemiology of paralytic poliomyelitis and document the association between the vaccine schedule changes and VAPP in the United States.

Design and setting: Review of national surveillance data from 1990 through 2003 for cases of confirmed paralytic poliomyelitis.

Main outcome measures: Number of confirmed paralytic poliomyelitis cases, including VAPP, and ratio of VAPP cases to number of doses of OPV distributed that occurred before, during, and after implementation of policy changes.

Results: From 1990 through 1999, 61 cases of paralytic poliomyelitis were reported; 59 (97%) of these were VAPP (1 case per 2.9 million OPV doses distributed), 1 case was imported, and 1 case was indeterminate. Thirteen cases occurred during the 1997-1999 transitional policy period and were associated with the all-OPV schedule; none occurred with the IPV-OPV schedule. No cases occurred after the United States implemented the all-IPV policy in 2000. The last imported poliomyelitis case occurred in 1993 and the last case of VAPP occurred in 1999.

Conclusion: The change in polio vaccination policy from OPV to exclusive use of IPV was successfully implemented; this change led to the elimination of VAPP in the United States.

MeSH terms

  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Immunization Programs*
  • Immunization Schedule
  • Organizational Policy
  • Poliomyelitis / epidemiology*
  • Poliomyelitis / etiology
  • Poliomyelitis / prevention & control*
  • Poliovirus Vaccine, Inactivated / administration & dosage*
  • Poliovirus Vaccine, Oral / administration & dosage*
  • Poliovirus Vaccine, Oral / adverse effects
  • Population Surveillance
  • Risk
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Vaccination / standards*
  • Vaccination / statistics & numerical data


  • Poliovirus Vaccine, Inactivated
  • Poliovirus Vaccine, Oral