But despite widespread annual polio vaccine campaigns targeting Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, the wild type poliovirus is still circulating in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and possibly Nigeria (no new cases have been reported there for about a year).
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative has slated 2018 as the year polio would be eradicated from the Earth, but the virus is proving to be harder to outwit than officials would have you believe.
Not only are there three strains of wild poliovirus still circulating in the world, but mutated vaccine-strain polio viruses also circulate.2 A large part of the problem is the polio vaccine itself, specifically the live oral polio vaccine (OPV).
In Ukraine, two children were recently paralyzed by vaccine-derived poliovirus type 1, which came from the oral vaccine and has mutated into a more virulent form that can paralyze. The World Health Organization (WHO) noted:3
“The risk of further spread of this strain within the country is deemed to be high.”
Not only can the oral polio vaccine cause vaccine-strain polio in the vaccinated individual and others in the community, but it also may lead to a person shedding the virus in their body fluids for decades.
Man Sheds Highly Contagious Polio Virus in Stool for 30 Years
A British man received three doses of attenuated (weakened) live virus polio vaccine at 5, 7, and 12 months of age. He also received a booster at age 7, as was recommended.
Although the man has no symptoms of polio, he has a health condition that suppresses his immune system, making it more difficult for him to clear vaccine strain poliovirus from the body.
Everyone sheds and can transmit virus in their body fluids for different periods of time after viral infections or receipt of live virus vaccines. However, immune-compromised individuals are more likely to become efficient long-term shedders and transmitters of wild-type or vaccine-strain viruses.
This means that persons with serious immunodeficiency are more vulnerable to becoming chronically infected with both wild-type and vaccine-strain viruses and to shedding and transmitting virus for longer periods of time than people who are not immune compromised.4
When researchers tested the British man’s stool (more than 100 samples were taken over a period of 28 years), they confirmed high levels of the poliovirus even decades later, according to research published in the journal PLOS Pathogens:5,6
Not only has the man been shedding the virus for 28 years, but it has mutated from the weakened vaccine strain into a more dangerous strain.7
This is the longest period of vaccine virus shedding known, but it’s likely not the only case. Several other highly mutated polio strains from vaccines have also recently been detected. BBC News reported:8
“According to the scientific team, several highly mutated polio strains, originating from vaccines, had recently been isolated from sewage samples in Slovakia, Finland, Estonia, and Israel.
All bore the molecular fingerprints of ‘iVDPVs’ – vaccine-derived polio viruses from immuno-deficient individuals. The researchers are calling for enhanced surveillance including sewage sampling and stool surveys to search for the presence of iVDPV strains.”
Oral Polio Vaccines Are Widely Known to Cause Polio Infections
The live oral polio vaccine can cause vaccine-strain polio, as well as lead to vaccine virus shedding for decades in some people, which could cause more vaccine-strain polio infections.
In the US, the oral polio vaccine was discontinued in 1999 (it was replaced with an inactivated, injectable polio vaccine), but it’s still widely used in other parts of the world. As noted in PLOS Pathogens:9
“All type 2 poliomyelitis [polio] cases since 1999, except an isolated incident of 10 cases linked to a wild laboratory reference strain in India, are due to vaccine-related poliovirus strains in either recipients, their immediate contacts, or after the vaccine virus has regained the ability to transmit and circulate freely.
Vaccine-associated paralytic poliomyelitis occurs in a very small proportion of vaccinees and can be prevented by using inactivated rather than live vaccine.
Vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV) strains… can be generated and transmitted from person to person in populations with low immunity and have been associated with a number of poliomyelitis outbreaks around the world.
These circulating VDPVs (cVDPVs) behave very similarly to wild polioviruses…
In addition, some hypogammaglobulinaemic patients are known to excrete poliovirus for prolonged periods of time but there is currently no effective strategy to deal with this problem.”
$22.5 Million Judgment for Man Who Contracted Polio After Changing Vaccinated Child’s Diaper
In 1979, Dominick Tenuto changed his daughter’s diaper after she had received the live oral polio vaccine (OPV). The vaccine-strain virus passed through his intestines and he was infected with vaccine poliovirus, becoming paralyzed and wheelchair bound.
After a long, 30-year legal battle, Tenuto was awarded $22.5 million in 2009 after a jury determined the Orimune vaccine his daughter had received was “unreasonably dangerous” and its maker Lederle Laboratories was 100 percent liable for his injuries.
The jury also found the company failed to warn doctors of the vaccine’s risks.10
Tenuto’s case wasn’t an anomaly, either. While OPV was still used in the US, it was estimated that nine people contracted vaccine-strain polio each year as a result of mass, mandated use of the live polio vaccine by children.
This included some of the vaccinated children as well as people with weakened immune systems who came in contact with the children (the cases were dubbed “contact cases).11
Former Lt. Gov. John H. Hager of Virginia was among them. As noted by the Washington Post:12
“Hager has used a wheelchair since age 36, when he contracted polio from an oral vaccine that had been given to his 3-month old son.”
At the time, many doctors would not warn parents of the risk of contracting “contact polio” so parents would not be reluctant to get their child vaccinated.13
However, even though the live oral polio virus is not used in the US today, the new PLOS Pathogens study provided evidence that adults who received the vaccine as babies could still be shedding the virus in their fecal matter.
The authors noted:14
“Our results show that the [polio] viruses are excreted at high titres, extremely virulent and antigenically drifted, and raise questions about how the population may best be protected from them, particularly in the light of possible changes in vaccine production which are being encouraged to increase capability and reduce costs.
The study has implications for the ecology of poliovirus in the human gut and highlights the risks that such vaccine-derived isolates pose for polio re-emergence in the post-eradication era.”
Plus, the live oral vaccine is still widely used in many parts of the world, so the possibility of global ongoing transmission of vaccine-strain poliovirus and circulation in the US is really only a plane ride away.
The Original Injectable Polio Vaccine Also Infected People with Polio
Dr. Jonas Salk developed the first polio vaccine in the 1950s. It contained an inactivated virus, but there was a problem: Swedish scientists tried to tell the US scientists that formaldehyde inactivation was not going to work as planned.
Their warning, however, fell on deaf ears. This was unfortunate, as they turned out to be correct. Live poliovirus, which was put in an injectable vaccine, would appear to be inactivated right after it was made, but sometimes the formaldehyde did not kill off the polioviruses in all of the batches of these vaccines, which led to live polio viruses being injected into children and adults.
As a result, more people developed paralysis from being injected with incompletely inactivated polio vaccine in 1955 than would have developed it from coming in contact with natural wild type poliovirus. On a side note, despite failures of early inactivated polio vaccines and the transmission of live vaccine strain polio virus via widespread use of oral polio vaccines, the polio vaccine is widely credited for eradicating polio in the US.
The health authorities at the time knew something had to be done to make it appear as though the vaccine was working. So what they did was change the diagnostic criteria for polio, which originally was diagnosed based on two examinations within 24 hours. This was changed to two examinations within 60 days.
This was helpful in cooking the books, because within 60 days most people recover from their bout with polio. Dr. Suzanne Humphries, author of Dissolving Illusions: Disease, Vaccines, and the Forgotten History, explained: “All those people who were formerly called polio were no longer categorized as polio because they recovered from their paralysis within that time.”
Eradicating Polio by Changing the Definition…
Also, prior to the vaccine there was no testing done on blood or stool samples. After the vaccine came along, there was an epidemic in Michigan around 1958. About 2,000 people were diagnosed with polio.
There was disbelief among doctors and health officials over the outbreak and, after serological testing was done, they discovered that the polio virus was identified in only a small minority — about one-quarter of those who displayed symptoms of infection. Interestingly, in the remainder they discovered a different virus or no virus at all! And, subsequently, those patients were no longer “counted” as having polio.
“So simply by doing the diagnostic testing and changing the diagnostic criteria, the rates of polio plummeted, whether or not there was ever a vaccine. These were the kind of things that were going on back then,” Dr. Humphries said.
Further, according to Dr. Humphries the only thing the injectable polio vaccine theoretically does is to give you some blood (humoral) immunity, similar to tetanus. And once vaccine makers realized just how difficult it was to inactivate poliovirus, and many people ended up contracting polio from the vaccine, they decided to abandon the injectable polio vaccine and create the live oral vaccine instead, which is more similar to the natural route of infection.
Unfortunately, while the live oral vaccine (OPV) did interrupt transmission of the wild type virus, it propagated transmission of the live vaccine strain virus instead, as discussed. In the 1990s the US quit giving OPV to children and switched back to an updated version of the inactivated, injectable vaccine. To address the risks of injecting improperly or inadequately inactivated poliovirus, certain adjustments were made to the ingredients and production process.
Polio vaccines today are propagated on cell cultures and inactivated differently from earlier versions, and different countries also use different strains of the poliovirus. Older polio vaccines used to contain three strains of the poliovirus. Today, some countries will only use one or two strains.
According to Dr. Humphries, at one point, the only polio cases in the US were vaccine-induced. Yet even though there are no indigenous cases of wild type polio being reported in the US, the polio vaccine remains part of the US vaccine program. As Dr. Humphries pointed out:
“Even today, you can just go on to the CDC website and the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). You can see that cases of polio in this country by and large occur when people get the oral vaccine in another country and then come here. When they say that polio is only a plane ride away, the truth is that disease from polio vaccine is also a plane ride away… Like I said, the injected vaccines do not interrupt propagation of the virus. If somebody comes to this country who has recently had an oral polio vaccine and he’s shedding a highly virulent strain, people in this country can start passing it around.”
Did You Know Polio Is Usually a Mild Illness?
At this point in time, although health officials are declaring a victory in eliminating the wild type poliovirus in large portions of the world, vaccine-caused polio is a growing problem. What is not yet known is if the increase in cases of acute flaccid paralysis in this and other countries is perhaps a form of vaccine-associated polio.
It is known that the poliovirus in the live oral polio vaccine can mutate into a deadlier version, igniting new outbreaks. According to a 2010 article in the New England Journal of Medicine, outbreaks of vaccine-derived polioviruses (VDPVs) have been occurring at a rate of once or twice per year since the year 2000.15 The author, John F. Modlin, M.D., wrote:
“The emergence of circulating VDPVs forces us to accept the reality that we are fighting fire with fire and that once eradication of WPV [wild polio virus] is assured, the use of live polio virus vaccines will need to cease globally in a coordinated manner. Because cVDPVs will probably continue to circulate for at least 1 to 3 years after WPVs are eradicated, and live polio viruses may be reintroduced from rare immunodeficient persons who continue to excrete virus, the world will need to rely on inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) indefinitely to maintain immunity.”
So are we really any better off? Wild type polio can cause difficulty breathing and paralysis as the virus attacks and kills motor nerve cells that control your muscles. It can also cause death in its most severe form. However, what is not often shared is that in most cases polio is a mild illness, causing sore throat, low-grade fever, fatigue, nausea, and other flu-like symptoms that disappear in two to 10 days. Often, polio can occur and show no symptoms at all. Even the Mayo Clinic states:16
“The vast majority of people who are infected with the polio virus don’t become sick and are never aware they’ve been infected with polio.”
The polio vaccine is not the only way to prevent or move through this infection without serious complications. Maintaining a strong and well-functioning immune system will always be your first line of defense, as this will reduce your risk of any number of diseases and complications, including polio.
There is even evidence suggesting that a diet high in refined sugar (as well as other forms of fructose) increases your risk of contracting polio, as discussed in the book Diet Prevents Polio, written by Benjamin P. Sandler, M.D. The book was published in 1951, at the height of the polio epidemic. Dr. Humphries explained: