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  • PCV Vaccine Protects Your Baby Against Many Types of Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

    Children are recommended to be given 4 doses of the PCV vaccine, starting 2 months of age.
    by Kate Borbon .
PCV Vaccine Protects Your Baby Against Many Types of Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria
PHOTO BY iStock
  • One of the vaccines included in the 2019 childhood immunization schedule is the PCV, which stands for the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine. This vaccine, which is free for babies in select regions of the country, protects your child from diseases caused by pneumococcus bacteria.

    Read more to learn about the different types of pneumococcal infections, the PCV, and why your child needs it.

    What are pneumococcal infections?

    Pneumococcal infections are various types of illnesses caused by a bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae, also known as pneumococcus. This can cause diseases such as sinus and ear infections, bacteremia (a bloodstream infection), pneumonia, and meningitis.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are more than 90 strains and types of pneumococcal bacteria that can cause disease. Some of the infections caused by pneumococcus are considered “invasive” — they invade parts of the body that are typically free from different kinds of germs.

    While most pneumococcal infections are mild, some can be fatal, or it leads to long-term health issues like brain damage and hearing loss, especially for those who are most vulnerable such children who are less than 2 years old or who have certain chronic illnesses or weakened immune systems.

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    Pneumococcal infections symptoms and possible complications

    The different types of pneumococcal diseases manifest various symptoms. First, there is pneumococcal pneumonia, an infection of the lungs. Its symptoms include:

    • fever
    • rapid breathing or difficulty in breathing
    • cough
    • chest pain

    Possible complications of pneumococcal pneumonia include:

    • empyema or infection of the space between the membranes surrounding the lungs and chest cavity
    • pericarditis or inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart
    • blockage of the airway allowing air into the lungs

    Pneumococcal meningitis is an infection of the tissues that cover the brain and the spinal cord. Its symptoms include:

    • fever
    • a stiff neck
    • headache
    • photophobia or increased sensitivity of the eyes to light.

    Babies who get infected with this disease may also exhibit symptoms such as vomiting and poor eating and drinking.

    It is considered the most severe type of invasive pneumococcal disease and can lead to long-term issues like hearing loss, developmental delay, or even death.

    Pneumococcal bacteremia refers to an infection of the bloodstream. Its symptoms include fever, chills, and low alertness. The CDC says that 1 out of 100 children less than 5 years of age who get this infection die.

    Pneumococcal bacteria are also responsible for many middle ear infections, says the CDC. Symptoms of middle ear infections include ear pain, a red, swollen eardrum, and fever. While ear and sinus infections are usually milder and more common than other types of pneumococcal disease, some children may develop ear infections multiple times and end up requiring ear tubes.

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    Pneumococcal infections treatment and prevention

    The CDC emphasizes the importance of early diagnosis and treatment in patients who are infected with invasive pneumococcal disease. If doctors think that a child might have contracted a particular pneumococcal illness, they may require samples of the child’s blood or cerebrospinal (CSF) fluid, which means a lumbar puncture procedure will be performed on your child's lower spine.

    Generally, antibiotics are used to treat pneumococcal diseases. However, according to the CDC, some types of pneumococcal bacteria have developed resistance to certain antibiotics. Doctors may need to initially prescribe “broad spectrum” antibiotics, which work against a wide range of bacteria to treat invasive pneumococcal infections until the results of antibiotic sensitivity testing are made available.

    Once doctors can determine the sensitivity of the bacteria the patient has contracted, they will then be able to prescribe a more targeted kind of antibiotic.

    That's why the CDC emphasizes the usefulness of the PCV in providing protection for young children. “With the success of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, we see much less antibiotic-resistant pneumococcal infections,” the CDC writes.

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    PCV is your child’s best protection

    Pneumococcal vaccines are very important in protecting children from more than 90 types of pneumococcal bacteria. There are three types of pneumococcal vaccines: the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13), the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23), and the 10-valent pneumococcal non-typeable Haemophilus influenzae protein D conjugate vaccine (PHiD-CV).

    PCV13 provides protection against 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria, specifically those which can cause most of the severe pneumococcal infections in children and older adults. The CDC recommends a series of four doses of this vaccination.

    Under the immunization schedule prepared by the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS) and the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines (PIDSP) together with the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination (PFV), the first dose of PCV13 is administered when the child is 6 to 8 weeks old and the following are given at ages 4 months, 6 months, and 12 to 15 months.

    PCV13 is also recommended for adults ages 19 years or older who have certain chronic medical conditions, and for adults ages 65 years and above.

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    Kids Health notes that kids older than 2 years may require a shot of PCV13 if they previously missed any of the recommended doses, particularly if they are suffering from any type of chronic health condition or an illness that weakens their immune system.

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    Another type of pneumococcal vaccine, PPSV23, provides protection against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria. The CDC particularly recommends it for adults ages 65 years and above and for those who are at increased risk for contracting various kinds of pneumococcal diseases between ages 2 and 64 years.

    Finally, PHiD-CV, also known as Synflorix, is a vaccine which contains parts of the pneumococcus bacterium. According to the European Medicines Agency, Synflorix is used to protect children who are between 6 weeks and 5 years old from invasive diseases, pneumonia, and middle ear infection.

    Aside from giving your child the protection she needs from pneumococcal disease, allowing her to get PCV will also prevent the spread of pneumococcal infections to others, primarily because pneumococcal bacteria is transmitted through person-to-person contact.

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    Children and adults who have previously been infected with pneumococcal disease do not get immunization from future infection because there are over 90 known types of the pneumococcal bacteria. It makes the PCV even more crucial.

    In addition to the PCV, the CDC also says that it is just as vital to give children a yearly booster of the influenza vaccine, because “having the flu increases your chances of getting pneumococcal disease.”

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