‘I wouldn’t wish this on anyone’: Polio survivor urges parents to vaccinate kids

Mahfuzur, 35, says he has lived “a limited life” after contracting polio as a toddler in Bangladesh
By Waltham Forest Echo

Mahfuzur Rahman (courtesy of NHS NEL)
Mahfuzur Rahman (courtesy of NHS NEL)

A polio survivor is urging Waltham Forest parents to vaccinate their children after signs the virus is spreading in the borough.

In August, the local NHS began offering free booster vaccines for all children aged one to nine in an effort to protect them from the potentially fatal disease.

The government first revealed the virus was spreading locally in June, after mutated strains were found in east London sewage earlier this year.

While the risk to the overall population is low, vaccination is the only way to protect people from rare complications like life-long paralysis or even death.

East London polio survivor Mahfuzur Rahman, 35, said: “Any parent offered a booster or catch-up dose of the polio vaccine by the NHS should take it – we don’t want to see any polio cases in London.

“Vaccination is the best way to protect children and stop the virus spreading. Otherwise, you risk catching polio and living a limited life with limb damage, pain, fatigue and muscle weakness. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.”

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Mahfuzur, who is a member of the British Polio Fellowship, contracted the virus in Bangladesh when around two years old and has lived with a shorter and weaker left leg ever since.

He added: “Walking is difficult, and I’ve never been able to run or take part in sports like football. Though I’m only 35 now, I can already see new polio symptoms starting to develop, like fatigue and muscle pain.”

Parents are being contacted by the NHS via letter or text, asking them to book an appointment with their GP.

Some sites in north east London are also offering pre-booked or walk-in vaccinations for children ages five to nine, with more information available here.

Diane Jones, Chief Nursing Officer for NHS North East London, said: “We’re committed to doing all we can to protect children and the wider public from the threat of polio. Please don’t let polio into your child’s life.

“The vaccine has been safely used in millions of children and will give them a high level of protection from polio. It is given as part of a combined vaccine to babies, toddlers, and teenagers as part of the NHS routine childhood vaccination schedule.”

Polio is caused by a virus that spreads easily from person to person, usually through contact with the poo of an infected person. It can also spread through coughs or sneezes, but this is less common.

Due to an NHS North East London error, an earlier version of this story misspelled Mahfuzur’s name

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