New polio vaccine more powerful than current vaccines

A polio vaccine that requires just one-fifth of what was commonly thought to be needed to defend babies from the crippling virus may be as effective as what was previously thought needed as long as the vaccine is injected just beneath the skin.

"With this study, we know we can use this means to lower the price (of immunizations in developing countries)," Dr. Roland Sutter of the World Health Organization told Reuters this week. "If we can do one-fifth the dose, we can at least get it down to one dollar, so we are getting into the neighborhood of a price that may be affordable for developing countries in the future."

According to Reuters, Bioject Medical Technologies has tested a "needle-free jet injector" that delivered the vaccine to babies at ages two, four and six months. All but five percent of the babies developed the necessary immunity to polio, blood tests showed.

The vaccine, should it be approved, would cost about $3 per dose. While it is not nearly as cheap as the oral polio vaccine - about 15 cents - tests show that the oral vaccine is weaker and can sometimes mutate within patients, causing polio.

Sutter told Reuters that health experts favor the injectable vaccine.

"It's still way over what would still be considered protective levels," he told Reuters.