Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
What is pneumococcal disease?
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, including these problems:
- More than 700 cases of meningitis
- About 17,000 blood infections
- About 5 million ear infections
Children younger than 2 years
are at highest risk for serious disease. Pneumococcal disease causes about 200
deaths each year in children younger than 5 years.
What is the pneumococcal
Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine is a "shot" for
infants and toddlers. It is good at preventing 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 a different vaccine called pneumococcal
Why should my child get this
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.
Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine can prevent pneumococcal disease.
Who should get the pneumococcal
conjugate vaccine and when?
Two groups of children should get this vaccine:
- Children younger than 2 years. All healthy
infants and toddlers should get 4 doses of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine:
- One dose
at 2 months of age
- One dose
at 4 months of age
- One dose
at 6 months of age
- One dose
at 12 to 15 months of age
Children who miss the first
dose at 2 months of age should still get the vaccine. Ask your doctor for more
- Children between 2 and 5 years of age.
Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine is recommended for children between 2 and 5 years
of age who:
sickle cell disease
- Have a
damaged spleen or no spleen
other diseases that affect the immune system, such as diabetes or cancer
medicines that affect the immune system, such as chemotherapy or steroids
This vaccine should also be
considered for use in all other children between 2 and 5 years of age, but
especially those who:
- Are younger than 3 years
- Are Alaska natives, Native Americans or blacks
- Attend group child care
The number of doses needed
depends on the age when the vaccination begins. Ask your doctor for more
Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine may be given at
the same time as other childhood vaccines.
Are there some children who should
not get pneumococcal conjugate vaccine or who should wait until they are
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
What are the risks from pneumococcal
In clinical trials, pneumococcal conjugate
vaccine was associated with only mild reactions:
- About 3 out of 10 children had redness,
tenderness or swelling where the shot was given.
- About 1 out of 10 had a mild fever.
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.
What if my child has a moderate or
severe reaction? What should I look for?
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 can include the following:
- Difficulty breathing
- Hoarseness or wheezing
- A fast heartbeat
- Swelling of the throat
What should I do if my child has a
- Call a doctor or take your child to a doctor
- Tell your doctor what happened, the date and time
it happened and when the vaccination was given.
- Ask your doctor, nurse or health department to
file a Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) form, or call VAERS
yourself at 800-822-7967.
How can I learn
more about this vaccine?
- Ask your doctor or nurse. They can give you the
vaccine package insert or suggest other sources of information.
- Call your local or state health department
- Contact the Centers for Disease Control and