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Pneumococcal vaccines

Jeanne Sager is a freelance writer who has strung words together for Babble.com, YourTango.com and Kiwi Magazine. Her award-winning columns about parenting in a small town are available on Inside Out jeannesager.blogspot.com.

Preventing pneumonia

Two different vaccines, pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) and pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV), fight a bacterial illness that is considered one of the most common causes of death in America.

Streptococcus Pneumoniae

What is pneumococcal pneumonia?

The CDC calls pneumococcal pneumonia -- caused by the virus Streptococcus pneumoniae -- "one of the most common causes of death in America from a vaccine-preventable disease." It can cause high fever, cough and shortness of breath; bacteremia, which carries with it fever and malaise; and pneumococcal meningitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord. Pneumococcus is the most common cause of meningitis in adults, and it's second on the list of meningitis causes in children.

Who gets it?

The PCV is administered to children at 2, 4, 6 and 12 to 15 months. One dose of the PPSV is administered to people 2 through 24 who are immuno-compromised and to adults who smoke or suffer from asthma. It is also recommended for everyone over the age of 65.

What are the side effects?

The most common side effect of the PPSV is redness at the injection site, with less than 1 percent of the population reporting fever or aches. The side effects of PCV are similar: Low-grade fever in one of three children, and swelling or redness at the injection site in one in four.

Vaccine recommendations

For the PPSV, one dose usually suffices, but a healthcare professional may require a second shot if more than five years have passed since your first. The PPSV is not recommended during pregnancy. If you have a moderate or severe illness, delay the shot, but both children and adults with minor illnesses can receive the pneumococcal vaccine.

What you need to know

Treatment of pneumococcus is available, but virulent strains have become increasingly resistant to treatment. According to the CDC, "Pneumococcal pneumonia kills about one out of 20 people who get it. Bacteremia kills about one person in five, and meningitis about three people in 10."

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