Polio vaccine

Also called poliovirus vaccine or poliomyelitis vaccine

Key points about the polio vaccine

  • The polio vaccine protects against polio infection.
  • The polio vaccine is also called Infanrix-hexa®, Infanrix-IPV® or IPOL®.
  • Find out about the vaccine and possible side effects.
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The polio vaccine offers protection against polio infection. Polio is a virus found in the nose and throat. It's spread by coughing, sneezing and sharing drink bottles. It infects the bowel and can attack the nervous system. In severe cases it may cause paralysis and even death.

Polio has disappeared from Aotearoa New Zealand and most parts of the world as a result of immunisation. However, there's still a risk that polio could enter New Zealand from overseas.

Read more about polio.

Polio vaccine works by making your immune system produce special cells called antibodies that will attack and kill the polio virus when it enters your body. This means that if you get infected, these protective antibodies are already in your bloodstream to quickly fight off the germs.

Being vaccinated causes your body to produce antibodies against the polio virus. This means your body can respond faster and more effectively to prevent an infection. It does this because by first coming across a non-infectious version of the virus in the vaccine, it learns to recognise it. When it comes across it again, your body can react much faster and in a more effective way.

In Aotearoa New Zealand there are 3 polio-containing vaccines: Infanrix-hexa®, Infanrix-IPV® and IPOL®.

As part of the New Zealand childhood immunisation schedule, polio vaccine is offered free to:

  • babies at 6 weeks, 3 months and 5 months as Infanrix-hexa®
  • children at 4 years as Infanrix-IPV®.

Read more about childhood immunisation.

Individuals who haven't been immunised against polio, or have had incomplete immunisation (missed some doses), or have a weakened immune system and are at risk of getting polio, can be given a course of 3 doses of inactivated polio vaccine (IPOL®), 4 to 8 weeks apart.    


Immunisation against polio isn't recommended in the first or second trimester of pregnancy unless you're travelling to a polio-affected area. If a previously unvaccinated pregnant woman is travelling to a country where polio is occurring, 2 doses should be administered 4 weeks apart prior to departure. If departure can't be delayed to allow a 4-week gap, give 2 doses at the maximum possible interval, though protection can't be guaranteed. If the available interval is less than 2 weeks, a single dose is recommended, with further doses given on arrival where possible.


If you're planning to travel to countries with a risk of polio infection, ensure that you're fully immunised against polio. If more than 10 years have passed since the last dose, a booster dose is recommended.

Infanrix–hexa® and Infanrix–IPV® are given intramuscularly (injected into the muscle) in the upper arm or thigh.

IPOL® is given b
y subcutaneous injection (under the skin).  

Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. 

Side effects What should I do?
  • Pain, swelling and redness at the injection site
  • Joint pain
  • This is quite common after having the vaccination.
  • It usually starts a few hours after getting the injection and settles within a few days.
  • For injection site swelling or pain, place a cold, wet cloth, or ice pack where the injection was given. Leave it on for a short time. 
  • Don't rub the injection site
  • Tell your doctor if this bothers you.
  • Read more: 
    After your child is immunised(external link) (babies and children)
    After your immunisation(external link) (teenagers and adults)
  • Mild fever
 Babies and children
  • If your child is hot, it can help to undress them down to a single layer, for example, a singlet and nappies or pants. Make sure the room is not too hot or too cold. 
  • The routine use of paracetamol is not recommended following vaccinations, but may be used if your child is miserable or distressed.
  • Read more: After your child is immunised(external link) 
Teenagers and adults
  • Rest and drink plenty of fluids.
  • The routine use of paracetamol is not recommended following vaccinations, but may be used for relief of severe discomfort.
  • Read more: After your immunisation(external link) (teenagers and adults)
  • Signs of an allergic reaction such as skin rash, itches, swelling of the face, lips, mouth or have problems breathing
  • Tell your doctor immediately or call Healthline 0800 611 116.

Read more about medicines and side effects and reporting a reaction that you think might be a side effect.

There are many different settings in which you can get a vaccination. These include medical or health centres, pharmacies, community-based clinics including marae-based clinics, mobile health clinics and mobile vaccination services.

Read more about who can give vaccinations and where to get vaccinated(external link).

Vaccines on the National Immunisation Schedule(external link) are free. Other vaccines are funded only for people at particular risk of disease. You can choose to pay for vaccines that you are not eligible to receive for free.

The following links provide further information on diphtheria-containing vaccines:

Medsafe Consumer Information


  1. Polio(external link) The Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
  2. Infanrix-hexa(external link) The Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
  3. Infanrix-IPV(external link) The Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ 
  4. IPOL(external link) The Immunisation Advisory Centre IPOL, NZ
  5. Poliomyelitis(external link) The Immunisation Handbook 2020, NZ

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Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist, Healthify He Puna Waiora. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

Reviewed by: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland

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