Q&A: Is the pneumococcal vaccine right for my baby?
Our child's pediatrician is recommending the newly issued pneumococcal vaccine. I am a respiratory therapist and have always been slow to jump at new vaccines and medicines when they first come out. What are your thoughts on this vaccine?
In this country we are lucky to have access to preventive medicine, and the new pneumococcal vaccine is a great example. Pneumococcus is currently the number one cause of meningitis in small children in this country, which can leave children deaf, neurologically impaired or dead. It also causes pnuemonia, some ear infections and other serious illnesses.
Before being licensed by the FDA in February, 2000, it was extensively studied in Northern California in 38,000 children. The vaccine reduced 94 percent of serious diseases caused by pneumococcus in these children. That’s a good performance!
As far as safety goes, it has so far performed very well. There were virtually no serious side effects seen in the California study. Mild side effects included fever and redness and tenderness at the site of the vaccination.
The dosing schedule varies depending on the baby’s age, with a full schedule for those infants begun at the recommended age of two months containing four doses and older children receiving three, two or a single dose, depending upon the age when the schedule is begun. I have been vaccinating my patients with the pneumococcal vaccine for more than six months, and, so far, have not seen a serious side effect. Although mainly licensed in the hopes of eradicating pneumococcal meningitis and bacteremia, it is estimated that this vaccine will also reduce the number of ear infections that pediatricians see by about 15%, and those will be the nastier ear infections at that.
I think this new vaccine is a plus, both for the health of individual children and America’s children as a whole.