Pneumococcal disease is a result of specific bacteria that may be found in the sinuses, nose, throat, and ears. The disease can cause severe conditions such as pneumonia, meningitis, acute otitis media (ear infections), and bacteremia, a blood infection. While these conditions may be treated with medication, some individuals die due to the conditions pneumoccal disease causes. In fact, many organizations have recognized that more individuals in the United States die from conditions caused by pneumococcal disease than all other vaccinated conditions combined!
Fortunately, pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV) is now available. While anyone can develop the conditions caused by pneumococcal disease, not everyone is given the vaccine. At this time, only individuals who are particularly at risk for developing the disease are vaccinated. These individuals include individuals suffering with diabetes, HIV/AIDS, individuals with heart or lung problems, individuals who have been treated in the past year for severe asthma, kidney disease, cystic fibrosis, or anemia, cancer patients, individuals over 65 years of age, and other individuals who possess a weak immune system.
The vaccine is relatively safe and generally has few minor side-effects such as pain, redness, and/or swelling may occur at the site of the injection. Occasionally, individuals may develop a fever or muscle pain as a result of the vaccine. And in extremely rare cases, severe allergic reactions may occur. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction to this vaccine may include breathing difficulties, pale skin, hives, rapid heartbeat, and/or other symptoms of anaphylactic shock. If these symptoms occur, one should immediately seek medical attention.
The Kennedy Health System claims that PPV protects against 123 types of pneumococcal bacteria, which cause pneunococcal disease. Thus, one dose of the vaccine is usually sufficient enough to protect individuals from serious condition caused by pneumococcal disease. The vaccine usually takes approximately two to three weeks to settle in an individual’s system.
If you are considering getting vaccinated with PPV, discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor. It is important to alert your doctor if you are pregnant, are taking other medications, or have ever had a serious allergic reaction to any other vaccine in the past. Pregnant women should be especially careful when considering getting vaccinated as there has been no research on how or if the vaccine affects a developing fetus.
For more information about PPV, visit the Kennedy Health System website or talk with your doctor. This vaccine just might save your life.