WASHINGTON -- Spurred by growing concerns about cases of polio apparently caused by the widely used live-virus vaccine, federal advisory panel yesterday recommended a major change in the way American children are immunized against the disease.
The proposal would revive the vaccine created by Dr. Jonas Salk in 1954, which ended the polio scourge in this country, but has been little-used here in recent years. Since 1961, most children have received a live, weakened virus vaccine given orally, which was invented by Dr. Albert Sabin.
But the Sabin vaccine also is believed to be responsible for causing a small number of cases of the disease -- about eight to 10 annually -- in the United States.
One benefit of Sabin's "live virus" is that it is effective in provoking immunity in people who did not receive it but had contact with individuals who did.
The advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends administering two doses of the injectable vaccine, followed by two doses of the oral vaccine.
Currently, four doses of the oral vaccine -- which is easier to administer to small children -- are recommended during the first two years of life. The new regimen, which is expected to be adopted by the CDC, is aimed at reducing or eliminating the caused cases.
"Our long-range goal will remain the [global] eradication of polio, so no vaccine would be necessary at all," said Dr. Steven Hadler, chief of the CDC's epidemiology and surveillance unit.