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Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine

What You Need to Know

What is Pneumococcal Disease?

Infection with Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria can make children very sick.

It causes blood infections, pneumonia, and bacterial meningitis, mostly in young children. (Meningitis is an infection of the covering of the brain.) Pneumococcal meningitis kills about 3 people in 10 who get it.

Pneumococcal meningitis can also lead to other health problems, including deafness and brain damage.

Before there was a vaccine, pneumococcal infection caused:

  • over 700 cases of meningitis,
  • 13,000 blood infections,
  • about 5 million ear infections, and
  • about 200 deaths
every year in the United States in children under five.

Children younger than 2 years of age are at highest risk for serious disease.

Pneumococcal bacteria are spread from person to person through close contact.

Pneumococcal infections can be hard to treat because some strains of the bacteria have become resistant to the drugs that have been used to treat them. This makes prevention of pneumococcal infections, through vaccination, even more important.

What is the Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV)?

There are 91 strains of pneumococcal bacteria. Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) protects against 7 of them. These 7 strains are responsible for most severe pneumococcal infections among children. Since PCV came into use, severe pneumococcal disease has dropped by nearly 80% among children under 5.

PCV can also prevent some cases of pneumonia and some ear infections. But pneumonia and ear infections have many causes, and PCV only works against those caused by pneumococcal bacteria.

PCV is given to infants and toddlers . . . to protect them when they are at greatest risk for serious diseases caused by pneumococcal bacteria.

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