Government races to find source of Britain's polio outbreak

Pay parents to boost take-up of polio jab, public health expert urges, as Government races to find source of Britain’s first outbreak of the disease in nearly 40 years

  • Dr Chris Papadopoulos said they could be offered a small sum as a short-term measure to boost rates in deprived areas where coverage tends to be lowest
  • His suggestion came as the UK Health Security Agency raced to find the source
  • Across the UK, 92 per cent of babies had their three-dose course by one year
  • Parents should be paid to get their children jabbed against polio to counter dangerously low vaccination rates, a public health expert has urged.

    Dr Chris Papadopoulos said they could be offered a small sum as a ‘short-term measure’ to boost rates in deprived areas where coverage tends to be lowest.

    His suggestion came as the UK Health Security Agency raced to find the source of Britain’s first outbreak of the potentially deadly disease in nearly 40 years.

    Traces of a type of polio virus have been found in sewage in North East London in recent months, pointing to an outbreak in the area, the agency said last week. It is thought to have been triggered by an individual who recently received an older-style ‘oral’ vaccine containing weakened strains of polio, typically given as a couple of drops on a sugar lump.

    This vaccine was phased out in the UK in 2004 but is still used in countries such as Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    Parents should be paid to get their children jabbed against polio to counter dangerously low vaccination rates, public health expert Dr Chris Papadopoulos has urged. Pictured, a girl gets her four-in-one pre-school jab offered by the NHS

    Parents should be paid to get their children jabbed against polio to counter dangerously low vaccination rates, public health expert Dr Chris Papadopoulos has urged. Pictured, a girl gets her four-in-one pre-school jab offered by the NHS

    People who receive such an oral vaccine can excrete traces of the weakened polio virus, often picked up in routine sewage testing.

    But the appearance of very closely related polio virus ‘isolates’ in London’s waste water since February suggests ‘vaccine-derived’ polio has spread from the vaccinated individual to other people.

    Polio vaccination rates are patchy. Across the UK, 92 per cent of babies have had their three-dose course by one year, but in London it is only 86 per cent. Dr Papadopoulos, a lecturer in public health at the University of Bedfordshire, said: ‘The research on this shows us that financial incentives do work.’

    He suggested local campaigns in which parents who get their children vaccinated receive a token payment of £1 or £2, plus entry into a small-scale lottery offering ‘something more significant’ like a three-figure sum.

    Across the UK, 92 per cent of babies have had their three-dose course by one year, but in London it is only 86 per cent. File photo pictured

    Across the UK, 92 per cent of babies have had their three-dose course by one year, but in London it is only 86 per cent. File photo pictured