Understanding the Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine: Why It's Important and What You Should Know

Why Get Vaccinated?

Pneumococcal disease refers to any illness caused by pneumococcal bacteria. This includes pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, meningitis, and bacteremia. These bacteria can cause many types of illnesses, with pneumonia being one of the most common.

Anyone can get pneumococcal disease, but children under 2 years old, people with certain medical conditions or other risk factors, and adults 65 years or older are at the highest risk. While most pneumococcal infections are mild, some can result in long-term problems such as brain damage or hearing loss. In some cases, meningitis, bacteremia, and pneumonia caused by pneumococcal disease can be fatal. This is where the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine comes into play - it can prevent pneumococcal disease.

The Vaccine

The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine helps protect against bacteria that cause pneumococcal disease. There are three pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCV13, PCV15, and PCV20). Your health care provider can help you determine which type of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, and how many doses, you should receive.

For infants and young children, the vaccination schedule usually includes 4 doses at 2, 4, 6, and 12–15 months of age. Older children, adolescents, and adults might need the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine depending on their age and medical conditions or other risk factors if they did not receive the recommended doses as infants or young children.

Talk With Your Health Care Provider

Before getting vaccinated, ensure to disclose any prior allergic reactions to any type of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, or to any vaccine containing diphtheria toxoid. Also disclose any severe, life-threatening allergies you might have. People with minor illnesses, such as a cold, may be vaccinated. Those who are moderately or severely ill should usually wait until they recover. Your health care provider can give you more information.

Risks Of A Vaccine Reaction

While vaccination is generally safe, side effects can occur. These may include redness, swelling, pain, or tenderness where the shot is given, and fever, loss of appetite, fussiness (irritability), feeling tired, headache, muscle aches, joint pain, and chills. Young children may be at increased risk for seizures caused by fever after a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine if it is administered at the same time as inactivated influenza vaccine. As with any medicine, there is a very remote chance of a vaccine causing a severe allergic reaction, other serious injury, or death.

What If There Is A Serious Problem?

In the event of a severe allergic reaction (hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, or weakness), seek immediate medical attention. For other signs that concern you, contact your health care provider. Adverse reactions should also be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).

Lastly, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) is a federal program that compensates people who may have been injured by certain vaccines. More information about this program and filing a claim can be found on the VICP website.

For more detailed information about the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, you can check out the source here.

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