The discovery of the polio virus in Britain proves we can never let our guard down | Andrew Pollard
Evidence of the disease in a London sewer shows that without widespread vaccination, no country is immune from its horrors
The finding of a polio virus in repeated sampling from the sewage system in London during 2022 is less of a concern for highly vaccinated communities in the UK, where children are immune to the rare chance of paralysis. However, it is a portent of potential individual catastrophe for families with unvaccinated and undervaccinated children in our capital unless there is urgent action.
In these pandemic times, we shouldn’t need much reminding that there are some bad viruses out there, and there always have been. But intervening urgently to control epidemics and outbreaks with vaccines is relatively new. The devastating polio epidemics of the 1940s and 1950s, which left thousands of children paralysed in the UK, were very much in the public eye at the time, with the familiar images of hospitals full of children in coffin-like iron lungs or paralysed children with their legs in callipers.
Prof Sir Andrew Pollard is Director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, University of Oxford