Pneumococcal Vaccine in Children

This vaccine represents a tremendous step forward in helping prevent serious and common infections in children. Otherwise known as Streptococcus pneumoniae, the pneumococcus bacteria is the most common cause of bacterial invasive infection in children younger than 2 years of age. Pneumococcus causes serious infections including meningitis, pneumonia, blood stream infections and sinus infections in children. Also, Pneumococcus is the leading bacterial cause of ear infections or Otitis Media, one of the most common infections in young children.

Although this bacteria can infect anyone, it tends to infect children less than 2 years of age more frequently. As well, children with weakened immune systems such as with HIV infection, asplenia(have no spleen) and sickle cell are particularly sensitive to pneumococcal infections. When these children get this infection their body cannot fight it off well and as a result they can get very sick.

What is the treatment for pneumococcal infection?

Antibiotics are needed to treat pneumococcal infections. Depending on the infection, they may need to be given in a hospital setting through an intravenous(for meningitis and pneumonia for example). The problem with the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria is that it is becoming increasingly resistant to the current antibiotics we have. Consequently, antibiotics fail to treat this infection resulting in the bacteria becoming more difficult to control and treat. Medical experts fear that one day Pneumococcus will develop resistance to all antibiotics making it a real super-bug: in other words a bacterium very difficult to treat and control. Therefore, prevention of this infection is best, especially when the possible infections are dangerous including meningitis. Pneumococcal meningitis is considered one of the most dangerous forms of bacterial meningitis.

Up until recently, there was no effective vaccine against pneumococcal infection for young children. However, there now exists a Pneumococcus vaccine that has been shown effective in young children, as well as in older children with weakened immune systems. The pneumococcal vaccine has been proven both safe and effective and is recommended to be given along with all the other routine vaccinations: at 2, 4, 6, 12, 15 months. The number of doses required depends on the age at which the vaccinations begin: Newborn babies should ideally receive there first vaccine at 2 months, for a total of 3 doses, six to eight weeks apart. A booster is given at one year. Each jurisdiction has its own schedule that my vary...so please check with your healthcare provider.

In conclusion, the pneumococcal vaccine is considered very safe and is viewed as a major step in being able to prevent common a well as serious childhood bacterial(pneumococcal) infections. As these infections, because of antibiotic resistance, are becoming more and more difficult to treat, prevention by vaccination is the best solution.