The Pneumococcal Vaccine: Health 101

Learn why and when your child needs the pneumococcal vaccine.

Why does my child need the pneumococcal vaccine?

The pneumococcal vaccine protects your child against Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, which can cause serious infections. Usually found in the nose and throat, pneumococcal bacteria may be passed from person to person, causing ear infections, pneumonia (an infection of the lungs), meningitis (an infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord), and bacteremia (an infection of the blood). Children under 2 are most at risk for having serious cases of the disease.

Before the vaccine, Prevnar, became available to children under age 2 in 2000, pneumococcal diseases caused more than 700 cases of meningitis, 13,000 blood infections, and around 5 million ear infections annually in the United States. These infections may be treated with antibiotics, but many of these bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics, making them very difficult to treat and increasing the importance of prevention.

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