You may be making sure that your baby is well protected from the heat and the cold and that he is kept in a safe and clean environment. You may be ascertaining that his toys, vessels and clothes are cleaned. But can you ensure that the air he breathes in is sterile? It is impossible. Any child can fall prey to germs that he is exposed to through the air. One such infection that spreads through air is pneumococcal disease caused by bacteria called as Streptococcus pneumoniae. Depending on which part of the body is infected, pneumococcal disease can lead to any one or a combination of several serious illnesses, like middle ear infection, pneumonia, meningitis (infection in the membranes of the brain), and bacteremia (infection in the blood stream) and can result in serious complications.
How do pneumococcal infections spread?
Pneumococcal infections are contagious and spread through air. Your baby can be easily exposed to these germs in public places like day-care centers, schools, malls, doctors’ clinics and even within the safety of your home if an infected person coughs or sneezes near him.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of pneumococcal disease may begin innocently in the form of cough, cold, sneezing typical of an upper respiratory tract infection. What’s different here is that while cold and flu symptoms decrease in a couple of days, symptoms of pneumococcal infections worsen with time.
How to prevent pneumococcal infections?
The best way to avoid getting pneumococcal disease is to give him the protection of the PCV (pneumococcal vaccine). The IAPA guidelines recommend 3 doses of PCV at ages 6, 10 and 14 weeks with booster at 15 months.1
Since, pneumococcal infections spread through the air, it is a good idea for other family members and others who come in contact with your child to get the vaccine too to prevent very young babies (<6 weeks) from falling prey to this deadly disease. Moreover, seniors > 50 should also get vaccinated.
Is the vaccine really necessary?
As a parent, it is natural to have questions about the necessity of this vaccine. But the protection that it offers greatly outweighs the minor side-effects. Children under the age of 2 are very vulnerable to pneumococcal infection.2 Children so young may be unable to withstand the severe complications that can accompany pneumococcal infections. Sometimes, antibiotics may also be unable to curtail the progress of these life-threatening infections due to resistance. As prevention is much better than trying to cure. Hence it is advisable to vaccinate your children against pneumococcal infections.
Is the vaccine effective and safe? 3, 4
The PCV is very effective. Studies have proven that PCV reduces invasive pneumococcal disease as well as acute otitis media (middle ear infection) and pneumonia in children. The PCV is safe and the minor side-effects like pain, soreness, redness at the site of the prick are small prices to pay for long-term protection from the dreaded danger of pneumococcal infections.
It is disturbing to know that 25% of all child deaths in India are due to pneumonia and 30–40% of pneumonia is caused due to pneumococcal infection.5 When the numbers are so decisive, why take a risk?
Give your child the best shot at pneumococcal infection prevention with the magic wand of PCV, do not hesitate vaccinate to protect.
- Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP 2016).
- Clin Microbiol Rev. 2012 Jul; 25(3): 409–419.
- Indian J Community Med. 2013 Oct-Dec; 38(4): 189–191.See comment in PubMed Commons below
- Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2000 Apr;19(4):394-7.
- Hum Vaccin Immunother. 2012 Sep 1; 8(9): 1317–1320.