FAQ: Pneumococcal Vaccine

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What are pneumococcal diseases?

Pneumococcal diseases are infections caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae, also known as pneumococcus. The most common types of infections caused by pneumococcus include pneumococcal pneumonia, bacteremia and meningitis. The latter two diseases are also known as invasive pneumococcal infections.

How dangerous are pneumococcal diseases?

Pneumococcal diseases are very dangerous and may lead to death. About 1 of every 20 people who get pneumococcal pneumonia die from it, as do about 2 who get meningitis. People with underlying medical conditions are even more likely to die from the disease.

Who is at most serious risk of developing these diseases?

Anyone can get pneumococcal disease. However, some people are at greater risk from the disease. These include people 50 years and older, the very young, and people with special health problems such as heart, lung or liver disease, kidney failure, diabetes, alcoholism or cancer.

Is there a way to treat infections?

Yes. They can be treated with antibiotics, but you may have heard about resistance to antibiotics. That makes it more difficult to treat some types of infections. Even with appropriate antibiotic therapy, the mortality rates of invasive pneumococcal infections range from 7 to 36%.

Is there a better way to protect against pneumococcal diseases?

Yes. They can be prevented by a vaccine containing 23 antigenic components, which covers approximately 90% of the serotypes responsible for invasive infections, including penicillin resistant strains. Increasing resistance to antibiotics worldwide complicates treatment, making vaccination against pneumococcal diseases even more important.

Is this vaccine effective?

Yes. Vaccination with a pneumococcal vaccine is very effective, which provides 50 to 80% protection towards pneumococcal infections.

Is this vaccine safe?

Yes. The vaccine is very safe. It may cause some local reaction or soreness around the site of injection, however, these reactions are usually minor and transient.

How long does this vaccination protect?

In most adults who are vaccinated at age 65 or older, pneumococcal vaccination is needed only once in a lifetime. However, if they are at high risk for serious disease, revaccination may be necessary 5 years after the first vaccination.

Who should be vaccinated?

If you are 50 years of age or over, or if you are suffering from diabetes, chronic lung diseases, heart, kidney or liver diseases, alcoholism, or a weakened immune system, pneumococcal vaccination is recommended.

Who should not be vaccinated?

You may not be vaccinated if you are allergic to any component of the vaccine. Vaccination should also be avoided during radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine is not recommended in children under 2 years of age, but they may receive it after the age of 2 years.

When is the best time to get vaccinated?

You may get the pneumococcal vaccination at any time of the year. You can simply ask your doctor to give you a pneumococcal vaccination at the same time you get a flu vaccination.

Source: Aventis Pasteur

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