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What are the benefits of the pneumococcal vaccine?
This vaccine protects against pneumococcal infections, which mostly happen in children younger than age 5 and can lead to some dangerous childhood diseases.
Before the vaccine, pneumococcal infections caused more than 700 cases of meningitis, 13,000 blood infections, and 5 million ear infections in children younger 5 every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). However, the vaccine effectively prevents the disease in up to 90 percent of people who get it.
The germs responsible for pneumococcal are bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae. These germs can cause an infection in the respiratory tract, middle ear, or sinus cavities.
Antibiotics such as penicillin can kill them, but up to 30 percent of the strains are resistant to antibiotics.
Pneumococcal bacteria spread by close contact and through coughing and sneezing. Serious diseases including meningitis and pneumonia can develop within days of infection.
Symptoms of pneumococcal pneumonia usually include fever and chills with shaking or trembling, as well as chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath, rapid breathing, rapid heart rate, fatigue, and weakness. Nausea, vomiting, and headaches are also associated with pneumococcal pneumonia, but are less common.
Pneumococcal bacteria also cause some of the most serious ear infections in children. But research shows that the number of babies and young children with ear infections has fallen significantly since the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine was introduced.
The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) PCV13, or Prevnar 13, has been used since 2010 to protect against more strains of pneumococcal bacteria than the previous vaccine.
This added protection is important because the old vaccine didn't protect against certain strains of bacteria that have become more common in recent years. According to the CDC, PCV13 offers protection against the strains of pneumococcal bacteria that most often cause severe pneumococcal infections in children.
What's the recommended schedule?
Recommended number of doses:
- 2 months
- 4 months
- 6 months
- Between 12 and 15 months
Use BabyCenter's Immunization Scheduler to track your child's immunizations.
Who shouldn't get the PCV vaccine?
Children who have had a life-threatening allergic reaction to a previous PCV shot or to certain other vaccines should not get the PCV vaccine. If your child has had this type of severe reaction to any immunization, talk to her doctor about whether the PCV vaccine is advisable.
Are there any precautions I should take?
Mildly ill children can be vaccinated. But if your child has a fever or a severe illness, such as pneumonia, wait until her health improves before taking her in for the vaccine. She'll be better able to handle the immunization when she's healthy.
What are the possible side effects?
Most children are fussy or irritable after the vaccination. About half of vaccinated children become drowsy, have redness or discomfort at the site of the injection, and have appetite loss. One in 3 children may have swelling at the injection site. One in 3 develop a mild fever, and 1 in 20 develop a high fever.
Severe allergic reactions are rare but possible with any vaccine. Here's how to tell whether your child is having an adverse reaction.
If your child has an adverse reaction to this or any other vaccine, contact your child's doctor and report it to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.