All children aged between 1 and 9 in Greater London will be offered a polio booster vaccine by 26 September, the Department of Health and Social Care has announced.

It follows the detection of the virus in sewage from North and East London, though no patient has yet been diagnosed with polio.

In a letter to Integrated Care Boards, NHS England and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said delivery of the boosters should start ‘no later than 15 August, with all one to nine year olds having been offered a vaccination by 26 September’.

It said the polio booster programme should be considered ‘equivalent priority’ to other time- sensitive vaccine programmes such as Covid-19 and flu.

The campaign will begin in the London boroughs ‘where vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (VDPV2) has been detected to date,’ the letter said, including Barnet, Brent, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Islington and Waltham Forest.

It added: 'Rollout beyond these initial boroughs will begin within a week of the start of the programme. Drawing on the experience and expertise of local partners and networks, this must include targeted outreach to under-vaccinated and unregistered communities.

NHS London will ‘continue to work with systems to support the development of these delivery plans’ and said ‘additional funding will be made available to systems to support outreach’.

The letter said: ‘Contractual and payment arrangements are being shared directly with providers.’

On delivery model, as ‘most routine childhood vaccinations are offered by general practice’, NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care ‘anticipate GPs will continue to offer vaccination in line with their routine offer, extending where possible to all one to nine year olds’.

They said: ‘Recognising the urgency and the pressures on general practice, we need systems to work with partners to design and implement additional capacity to support delivery.’

Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay today accepted advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) that all children between one and nine should have a polio booster, beginning with the ‘most impacted boroughs’.

He said: ‘I recognise parents and guardians will be concerned about the detection of polio in London, however I want to reassure people that nobody has been diagnosed with the virus and the risk to the wider population is low.

‘On the advice of the independent JCVI, the NHS will now offer all children aged one to nine across the capital a polio vaccine booster dose, starting with the most impacted boroughs, so we can ensure they have the best possible protection and we reduce the chances of transmission.’

Mr Barclay added: ‘Vaccines offer the best defence to children, and those around them, so I would encourage families to ensure they are up to date with their routine jabs, and to come forward for the polio booster as soon as they are contacted by the NHS.’

This comes after research last month found the common adendo-associated virus 2 (AAV2 virus) – and not Covid – is likely to be linked to a recent rise in acute hepatitis cases in children. 

A version of this story was published on our sister publication Pulse.