What are the indications to use pneumococcal vaccine?
The pneumococcal vaccine is used to prevent diseases caused by streptococcus pneumonia which include meningitis, pneumonia, sinusitis as well as otitis media. Among these infections, some are dangerous and could even be fatal while the brunt of these infections takes place in a susceptible age group which is the children below the age of 5 years. Because of these risks, a vaccination has been introduced to this age group which is a heptavalent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine although another vaccine type which is the polysaccharide vaccine is also being used in high risk individuals.
How is the pneumococcal vaccine administered to infants?
According to the expert recommendations, the heptavalent vaccine is given as three doses in the first year and another booster dose when the child is in his or her second year. Thus, the recommended times for giving this vaccine falls at 2nd, 4th and on the 6th months with the booster dose scheduled between the 15th to 18th month of age.
When the recommended doses are missed, following schedule will illustrate how the vaccination be done to achieve the optimal outcome.
-If the vaccination was started at 6 – 12 months of age 2 doses of the vaccine should be given at 8 weeks interval and a booster can be given at 15 months.
-If the infant is vaccinated in the second year, two doses can be given at 8 weeks gap without giving the booster dose.
-But, if it is not given in the above time period, a single dose is recommended between the ages of 2 – 4 years in case there is a higher susceptibility towards contracting the infection.
The necessity to receive the pneumococcal vaccine reduces with age and it is hardly recommended for children above the age of 5 years although children with higher risk of acquiring infections may be given the vaccine to derive effective protection against the streptococcus pneumonia.
What are the possible side effects of giving this vaccine?
Apart from the mild local reactions including local soreness, swelling, redness and sometimes a mild fever, the vaccine hardly cause any serious side effects although the risk of allergic reactions cannot be excluded even in very rare instances. At the same time, these manifestations will resolve within 48 to 72 hours and if it persists beyond this period one needs to obtain medical advice on how to manage these manifestations.