While the oral polio vaccine is widely credited for eliminating polio from India, with the last case in the country seen in 2011, India’s children continue to receive the oral polio vaccine. But a 2018 study suggests that almost a half million children have been paralyzed during the years 2000-2017 because of the oral polio vaccine. The study was conducted by a team of scientists including the head of pediatrics at a Delhi hospital, and was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
The study authors concluded that “"the frequency of pulse polio administration was found to be directly or indirectly related to the incidence of non-polio acute flaccid paralysis.”
Pulse polio administration is the practice of periodically vaccinating all children under the age of five against polio. The non-polio acute flaccid paralysis (NPAFP) rate in several Indian states was examined over several years, and “it was found that the number of pulse polio rounds conducted had a high correlation with the NPAFP rate in the state,” the study said.
The study noted that there was a sharp increase in India’s national NPAFP rate reported in 2005, which coincided with the introduction of a high-potency vaccine that contained 5 times the number of Type 1 viruses compared to the older vaccine. The NPAFP rate more than doubled from 2003 to 2005, from about 3 per 100,000 to 6 per 100,000.
“We calculated the number of paralyzed children each year which exceeded the expected numbers …. A total of 640,000 children developed NPAFP in the years 2000–2017, suggesting that there were an additional 491,000 paralyzed children above our expected numbers for children with NPAFP,” the study says.
“We speculated that repeated doses of the live vaccine virus delivered to the intestine may colonize the gut and alter the viral microbiome of the intestine,” the study states.
The study was almost entirely ignored by the world press. However, a National Public Radio report that came out in 2017, before the study, hinted at the problem. The NPR report was titled “Mutant Strains Of Polio Vaccine Now Cause More Paralysis Than Wild Polio,” and it contains the following interesting information:
“But for now, the live vaccine continues to be the workhorse of the global polio eradication campaign for a couple of reasons. First it's cheap, costing only about 10 cents a dose versus $3 a dose for the injectable, killed vaccine. Second, it can be given as drops into a child's mouth, which makes it far easier to administer than the inactivated or ‘killed’ vaccine, which has to be injected. Third, there simply isn't enough killed vaccine on the market to vaccinate every child on the planet, and vaccine manufacturers don't have the capacity to produce the quantities that would be needed if such a switch happened immediately.”