Interrupting the transmission of wild polioviruses with vaccines: immunological considerations

Bull World Health Organ. 1994;72(6):973-83.


In 1988 the World Health Assembly set the goal of global poliomyelitis eradication by the year 2000. Substantial progress has been made, and 143 countries reported no poliomyelitis cases associated with the wild virus in 1993. This article reviews the immunological considerations relevant to interrupting the transmission of wild polioviruses with vaccines. Although serum immunity prevents poliomyelitis in the individual, it is local immunity that is important in preventing the transmission of polioviruses in the community. Natural infection and vaccination with oral polioviruses vaccine (OPV) produce local immunity in the intestine and the nasopharynx in about 70-80% of individuals. In contrast, inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) produces local intestinal immunity in only 20-30% of the individuals. With either vaccine, however, a substantial proportion of the immunized population can transmit the wild virus. Moreover, although serum immunity is long-lasting, limited data suggest that local immunity may not be as persistent. To interrupt the transmission of wild polioviruses efforts should be made to achieve and sustain high levels of poliovirus vaccine coverage. Recent outbreaks show that wild poliovirus poses a risk for unimmunized individuals, even when overall coverage levels are high. Delivery of poliovirus vaccine to hard-to-reach populations will be of increasing importance as countries progress toward the final stages of poliomyelitis eradication. The immunization status of persons from poliomyelitis-free countries should be updated prior to travel to poliomyelitis-endemic areas.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology
  • Antibody Formation
  • Humans
  • Intestines / immunology
  • Nasopharynx / immunology
  • Poliomyelitis / transmission*
  • Poliomyelitis / virology*
  • Poliovirus / immunology*
  • Poliovirus Vaccine, Oral* / immunology


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Poliovirus Vaccine, Oral