Vaccines/Polio/MS question

In conversation with someone recently about the COVID vaccine, they brought up polio and what I am assuming is a conspiracy theory that polio is not actually eradicated in the west, but instead has been “renamed” MS. I could only find a few, older papers on the subject. Has anyone else heard of this??

I’ve never heard that one, but I have heard them say that it’s renamed GBS, which isn’t true either. Polio is an actual virus. GBS can be caused by viruses, including the flu.


And rightly so. The only place you’ll see anything like that is in conspiracists’ online echo chamber pots, or some crank’s posting in a legit forum.


Having been in medicine many years, there are no serious indications that this is true in the medical community, so suspect that it is a creation of the League of Conspiracy Theorists. MS has different symptoms, different progression, in not contagious, is treated differently etc. Other than both involving the nervous system, there is no connection I can see. Interestingly, however, viral infections may trigger an immune response that may be a component of what causes MS. Epstein-Barr virus has been associated with it, as have other infections, so perhaps the polio virus could also be associated, though the virus is so rare now that any association would be difficult to show. ( Epstein-Barr is the virus that causes mono, and infection is almost universal by adulthood)
That is just off the top of my head, but sure good resources are out there to further study. Any particular reason for this conversation? Was it by a non-vaxxer type? Just curious. By the way, polio vaccination has an interesting and somewhat complex history. I remember getting the attenuated live vaccine as a child, but now only the killed vaccine is given in the US, as the risk of the live vaccine now is felt to exceed the benefit, now that the risk of infection is so low.


Found an interesting paper on polio and MS.

So there were 19 cases of MS among 5,652 polio patients compared to an expected 11 cases in the same number of uninfected patients. It may be statistically significant, but it hardly rises to the level of a world wide conspiracy.

If polio really were moving through the population it would be readily apparent, especially given how easily viruses can be tested for through technologies like PCR. A scientist could create quite a career if they were to discover a polio outbreak in the industrialized West, so there is no way there could be a cover up. Ambition beats keeping secrets every time.


Sorry if this posts twice. It looks like my other response disappeared into the ether. Anyway, thank you for this response. I had wondered about dissimilarity of symptoms, etc and also that polio seems to affect children whereas MS doesn’t as much??

Yes, it was a recently converted anti-vaxxer, my mother, unfortunately. Her stance on this bothers me a lot because my dad has cancer and is immune-compromised so I would like for him to get the COVID vaccine if it is safe.

I recently read “Polio: An American Story”, by David Oshinsky, and I agree that the story behind the vaccinations are fascinating. It was well-written, if anyone else is interested in checking it out.

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The lesions are different in polio and MS as well, where polio affects primarily the motor neurons that control muscles in the spinal cord and brainstem, whereas MS affects the myelin sheath of nerve cells, leaving scars in the brain itself as well as spinal cord.


Not to hijack the original intent of the thread, but here’s my participation trophy for the weekend.
Smudged out my DOB in the picture just for identity theft protection. Had that happen to me once, and I’ve since taken a very cautious approach on such things.


Good job! As I said to a nurse friend, we need to let people know that taking the vaccine is not just for them, but to help protect the vulnerable who have not been vaccinated or who do not mount an immune response. It is an act of community service. (Sort of wish we could leave anti-vaxxers out of that, but they are benefited also…)


That reminds me of a Facebook post I saw this afternnoon that I reposted (not ‘Shared’ because I didn’t have the credentials :slightly_smiling_face:):

(I also posted this, the court of which I learned of here… was it from you, Doc?):

I remember discussing it on another thread long , long ago. I might add that historically the vaccine compensation program has been very generous, giving settlements to people despite minimal association with vaccines.
Along the lines of being vaccination being a community service, I think I referenced Joel Duff’s article before on non-vaxxers and mask refusers being freeloaders or cheats in society, but will link it again. I have thus far not accused anyone of being a cheat by refusing vaccination, as that is probably not productive or gracious, but it is an interesting idea, and one I think is valid.

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Thank you for the info! I will pass it along.

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