Pneumococcal disease is the main cause of bacterial meningitis (an infection of the covering of the brain) in the United States. Each year, pneumococcal disease causes many health problems in children younger than 5 years of age, including these problems:
Children younger than 2 years of age are at highest risk for serious disease. Pneumococcal disease causes about 200 deaths each year in children younger than 5 years of age.
Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine is a shot for infants and toddlers. It helps prevent pneumococcal disease, and it also helps stop the disease from spreading from person to person.
The vaccine's protection lasts at least 3 years. Because most serious pneumococcal infections happen during the first 2 years of life, the vaccine protects children when they are at greatest risk. (Some older children and adults may get the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine--a different vaccine used to prevent pneumococcal disease.)
Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine can prevent pneumococcal disease. Pneumococcus bacteria are spread from person to person through close contact. Pneumococcal infections can be hard to treat because the disease has become resistant to some of the medicines that have been used to treat it. This makes preventing the disease even more important.
The following groups of children should get this vaccine:
1. All children younger than 2 years of age. Healthy infants and toddlers should get 4 doses of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine:
Children who miss the first dose at 2 months of age should still get the vaccine. Ask your doctor for more information.
2. Some children between 2 years and 5 years of age. Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine is recommended for children between 2 years and 5 years of age who:
3. This vaccine should also be considered for use in all other children between 2 years and 5 years of age, but especially those who:
The number of doses a child needs depends on the how old the child was when he or she started getting the shots. Ask your doctor for more details.
Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine may be given at the same time as other childhood vaccines.
Children should not get pneumococcal conjugate vaccine if they had a severe (life-threatening) allergic reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine.
Children who are moderately or severely ill at the time the shot is scheduled should usually wait until they recover before getting the vaccine. Children with minor illnesses, such as a cold, may be vaccinated.
In clinical trials, pneumococcal conjugate vaccine was associated with only mild reactions, such as:
A vaccine, like any medicine, could cause serious problems, such as a severe allergic reaction. The risk of this vaccine causing serious harm or death is extremely small. If you have concerns, talk to your doctor.
Look for any unusual condition such as a serious allergic reaction, high fever or unusual behavior. If a serious allergic reaction is going to happen, it will happen within a few minutes to a few hours after the shot. Signs of a serious allergic reaction include the following:
Adapted from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Immunization Program. Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine. Vaccine information statement 7/18/2000. Retrieved March 2001, from: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/downloads/vis-PneumoConjugate.pdf.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff