Living With Polio

Questions About Receiving The Polio Vaccine After Having Already Contracted Polio


I contracted polio as child age 12 from the live virus vaccine. Several years ago I was diagnosed with PPS. Later in the US Army age 19 I was given a polio vaccination. What would have happened to me? What would have the side effects been? Enhanced PPS? Are there any studies on this situation?


Marny Eulberg, MD, polio survivor and a family physician who has run a post polio clinic since 1985.

Do you remember/know whether the polio vaccine you received at age 19 in the military was the oral polio vaccine or the injectable polio vaccine? What kind of investigation was done to show that the polio you contracted at age 12 was caused by the vaccine? it sounds like you made a good recovery from the polio at age 12, since you were able to pass the physical to get into the military as a young man.

As far as I know, there has been no research done looking at the development of PPS in persons who developed polio as a result of the vaccine versus those developing PPS as a result of infection with wild poliovirus. I also do not know of any research looking at whether polio vaccination after one has had polio has any influence on whether someone develops PPS or not. This is most likely due to the fact that there are only a small number of people in the United States who contracted polio from the oral vaccine [incidence is about 4-5 people developing polio per 1,000,000 doses of oral polio vaccine given—this translated into between 8-10 people per year in the United States during the time period that oral polio vaccine was used (1961-1999)]. So that means a total of about 280 people across the entire United States. It would be a major challenge to locate enough of these people to do a meaningful study.

And, as for the second issue about people who had acute polio and later received one or both of the polio vaccines, many people who contracted polio prior to 1955 when the Salk vaccine was released later received the Salk polio shots and/or the Sabin oral vaccine. I know I contracted acute polio in 1950 with some residual paralysis of my left leg, then I received the series of 3 shots of the Salk vaccine when it was available and later received 3 doses of the Sabin vaccine. I do have PPS but do not think I can attribute my developing PPS to having received the vaccine after my initial polio.

To study the effect of receiving the vaccine after having had polio would require locating people who had polio and then NEVER received any doses of polio vaccine as a control group and I don’t know how a researcher would ever locate those people.

Some of my PPS patients have been required to get booster shots of polio vaccine in order to travel to Africa and, even though, it has been a small number of them (3-4), none have had any more worsening of their PPS than I would expect from the effect of time.

I’m sorry that I can’t give you more definite answers but there is just no data to answer the questions you asked.

January 2017

Note: In the ’80s a physician at Warm Springs used polio vaccine to help with “post-polio pain.” See article on page 181 of Late Effects of Poliomyelitis (1985) Lauro S. Halstead, MD and David O. Wiechers, MD, eds.

Tags for this article:
Acute Poliomyelitis
Medical Help
Post-Polio Syndrome