CDC eyes oral polio vaccine not used in 20 years to halt New York outbreak

The CDC is considering the use of a novel oral polio vaccine that uses a live virus strain to stop an outbreak in New York, agency officials told CNBC in an Oct. 21 report. The vaccine has not been used in more than two decades. 

The U.S. pulled the oral vaccine off shelves in 2000 because it uses a live, weakened strain of polio. In rare cases, the strain can mutate into a virulent form. The U.S. currently uses the inactivated polio vaccine, meaning it contains virus that cannot replicate, mutate or cause disease. Health officials are considering the novel vaccine's use because it is more effective at halting transmission. The inactivated vaccine is highly effective at preventing paralysis from polio but not at preventing transmission of the virus. 

If determined necessary, the U.S. would use a newer, more stable form of the oral vaccine that carries less risk of mutation. Deploying the vaccine would require an emergency use authorization or approval from the FDA. 

"It will be a process. It's not something that we can pull the trigger on and have it appear overnight," Janell Routh, MD, the CDC's team lead for domestic polio, told CNBC. "There will be lots of thought and discussion about the reintroduction of an oral polio vaccine into the United States." 

On Oct. 11, New York extended its state disaster emergency declaration for polio at least through Nov. 8. Polio has been detected in 70 wastewater samples from a number of counties in the state after the virus paralyzed an unvaccinated man in Rockland County, N.Y., in July. 

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