Pneumococcal diseases, led by the most annoying malady ever to strike humanity; Pneumonia, is one of the most common community diseases, spread from person to person hence making the horizontal transfer possible. This leads us to the question, is pneumonia contagious? Should we treat the patients as untouchables or should we just be cautious? In order to answer this question, it is essential to know that a healthy person gets infected with pneumococcal infections when he gets in touch with the secretions of the respiratory system of an ill person e.g. saliva, mucus, or both containing the infection microorganisms.
The infected people act as sources for the time period ze carries the infection. A symptomatic patient with any pneumococcal disease e.g. viral pneumonia carries the viable microorganisms in their nasal and oral cavity which can be easily transferred to the atmosphere in the form of aerosol droplets.
Though everyone is susceptible to be infected yet studies have shown that certain age groups show a greater risk of infection than others. According to National Health Service (NHS) UK’s pneumonia shot guidelines, infants and old people above the age of 65 years must be vaccinated. Apart from these, a person who has been suffering from a long-term disease, especially concerning the heart or the kidneys, should be administered with the Pneumococcal vaccine in order to reduce the risk of impending pneumococcal infections in them. The importance of pneumococcal vaccine for adults is equally important as the immunization of the adults of a community can lead to a decreased incidence of pneumonia in children as a result of herd immunity.
The research, on pneumococcal vaccine, has so far proved its efficacy as well as safety at all fronts. But, in the past, it has been noticed a side-effect might, momentarily, accompany a vaccine few days after the inoculation.
But rest assured the myth that inoculation with pneumococcal vaccine causes the pneumococcal infections itself has not been proved yet.
Official bodies concerning with the safety of this particular vaccine such as National Health Service (NHS) U.K. and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) U.S. are of the opinion that it does not cause the infection. The constituents of the two vaccines are killed or dead bacteria/bacterial components so the question of the vaccine causing any pneumococcal infection is off the table.
Types Of Pneumonia Vaccine
Although pneumonia vaccine has undergone tremendous research but at present only two vaccine preparations are considered safe enough to be used for intervention. According to the data presented by NHS and CDC, following vaccines are recommended to be used for vaccination:
Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine
It is also known as PPSV23 or pneumonia vaccine 23. This vaccine makes use of the dead microorganisms in order to train the immunity of the vaccinee to prevent any future pneumococcal infection. At the moment this vaccine is being marketed with the tag of “Pneumovax.”
PPSV23 also makes the vaccinee immune against developing meningitis or bacteremia from the strains of S. pneumoniae.
Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine
The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine is also known as PCV13 or pneumonia shot 13. This vaccine has been engineered to provide immunity in the vaccinee against 13 different strains of Streptococcus pneumonia. PCV, like PPSV23, vaccine makes the vaccinee immune against developing meningitis or bacteremia from the strains of S. pneumoniae.
In 2011, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of U.S. gave the approval of the use of this particular vaccine as a part of its pneumococcal vaccine recommendations in order to inoculate people who were more than 50 years of age. At the moment, this vaccine is available in the market with the brand name “Prevnar.” Prevnar pneumonia shot is currently a part of the vaccination program initiated by NHS known as “Childhood Vaccination Program”. According to it, the vaccine is administered to the children who are less than two years old in order to vaccinate them. As a part of the Childhood Vaccination Program, pneumonia booster dose administration is also ensured.
Pneumonia Vaccine Side Effects
A number of side effects are observed in people who are immunized against pneumococcal infections. The severity of pneumonia vaccine side effects ranges from commonly occurring mild side effects at the site of pneumococcal shots to rare side effects which may occur some time after pneumonia immunization.
Side Effects Of Pneumonia Vaccine In Infants
Side effects of mild to moderate nature may appear in various recipients of the vaccine. In the case of infants and babies, up to the age of two years, the most suitable vaccine is Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV). The following mild symptoms may appear after the inoculation of the vaccinee up to the age of two years:
- Loss of appetite.
- Elevated body temperature
- Development of irritable mood.
- Soreness and swelling at the point where the vaccinee is injected. This area may appear red or become hard after a Prevnar pneumonia shot.
- Laziness and lethargy.
- Disturbance of the sleeping cycle.
The above-mentioned side effects are mild in nature and they do not offer disruptive effects on the health of the patient. However, apart from these, other moderate to severe side effects are also observed in the Pneumonia immunization with PCV vaccine after inoculation but their occurrence is rare. These side effects are:
- Development of skin rash on other parts of the body which are similar to a rash as a result of an allergic reaction.
- Continuous elevation of the body temperature consequently resulting in convulsions and seizures in some case.
If one or both of the above-mentioned signs are observed, then it is suggested that a certified general practitioner is consulted so that he may be able to look at it and prescribe a treatment to counteract the side effects which pose a serious risk to the well-being of the vaccinee.
Side Effects Encountered In Children Older Than 2 Years And Adults
In the case of children who have surpassed the two years’ age mark as well as adults, Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine (PPSV) is recommended. PPSV, also known as pneumonia vaccine 23, is mostly used as a pneumococcal vaccine for adults. As in the case of PCV vaccine, PPSV also has mild side effects which may appear in the vaccinee right after they are inoculated. Some of these side effects are:
- Soreness and swelling at the point where the vaccinee is injected. This point may appear red or become hard after inoculation. This side effect has the tendency to last somewhat between 1 – 3 days. According to the statistics of CDC, a summary of immunization programs lasting from 2015-2016 suggested that this side effect is only encountered in a maximum of 64% of total vaccinees.
- A slight elevation in the body temperature than the normal.
In the case of PPSV, the occurrence of moderate to serious side effects is uncertain but the chances of severe allergic reaction in the form of anaphylactic shock are always imminent. It is advised to keep the vaccinee under surveillance for some time after inoculation if they have exhibited such reaction to other vaccines in the past.
Steps To Take If A Child Exhibits Side Effects
For the most part, the best cure to the mild side effects, which may appear right after inoculation such as irritation and redness of the site where the vaccine has been injected, is to wait out and let the condition resolve itself. It does not resolve over the period of one day or a few hours rather in some cases it takes up to three days for the swelling and redness to subside completely.
in some cases, along with the soreness of the site of injection, the pneumonia vaccine side effects become serious as a result, the child may develop a mild fever. In such case, it is imperative to keep your child’s body temperature in control so that their body temperature does not take a hike. The best thing to do is making sure that the child is not wrapped in excessive layers of clothing which may contribute to the hiking body temperature. Also, frequent drinks are to be offered to the vaccinee so that their body temperature remains in a safe zone hence not posing a grave threat to the health of the patient.
In order to tackle the fever and body aches which might develop, it is advised according to the guidelines of NHS that a certain amount of paracetamol can be administered to the child but before continuing with the dose it is necessary to read the instruction on the bottle of the medicine or the leaflet provided with it for dosage instructions and contraindications.
The Risk Of An Anaphylactic Reaction
It is very certain that in some vaccinated individuals there is an abrupt reaction after being inoculated with the any of the two types of pneumococcal vaccines. This reaction is termed as a serious allergic reaction towards the vaccine.
If this reaction, also termed as the anaphylactic reaction, is allowed to persist it may progress to breathing difficulties and consequently the death of the patient. Unlike other side effects which have been addressed earlier, an anaphylactic shock or reaction is a serious one and it needs to be attended urgently in order to prevent it from becoming fatal.
Usually, such kind of severe allergic reaction is abrupt and occurs within minutes of vaccine inoculation. A proper administration of a substantial dose of adrenaline does the trick in order to counteract such a reaction as it seems very severe and painful at the onset.
It is imperative that the nursing staff, as well as the doctor who is around the vaccinee at the time of the inoculation, are well equipped to undertake any such situation if it arises. It has been noted that if the doctors and nurses are well equipped to treat an anaphylactic reaction and they start the treatment well in time then the patient makes a swift recovery.
According to the guidelines of NHS, it is necessary that you keep an eye on the child or yourself after being vaccinated and consult a general physician as soon as you observe something that looks like an anaphylactic reaction. This kind of a side effect should not be taken lightly as in the cases when it is left unattended or attended late cause’s death of the patient because of breathing difficulties.