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Vaccine against pneumococcal disease

Children are offered a vaccine against pneumococcal disease at their 3-, 5- and 12-month check-ups at the public health centre

Children at different ages. Illustrasjon: Colourbox

Children are offered a vaccine against pneumococcal disease at their 3-, 5- and 12-month check-ups at the public health centre

The vaccine contains parts of the bacteria's sugar capsule (polysaccharide) bound to proteins. The vaccine protects against 13 pneumococcal types. Before the introduction of the vaccine, these 13 types were the cause of a substantial portion of the pneumococcal infections in children under the age of two. The vaccine has also reduced the number of cases of inflammation of the middle ear caused by these pneumococcal types. The vaccine does not protect against disease due to pneumococcal types other than the 13 included in the vaccine.

The vaccine against pneumococcal bacteria is given at the same time as the combination vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, Hib infection and hepatitis B.

Pneumococcal disease

There are more than 90 different types of the pneumococcal bacterium. Several of these can cause disease in humans, usually pneumonia, sinusitis and inflammation of the middle ear. Occasionally the infection can become more serious, such as blood poisoning (sepsis) or inflammation of the brain membrane (meningitis). Pneumococcal bacteria can cause disease in both children and adults but different strains dominate in different age groups. Most cases of serious pneumococcal disease occur in very young children, in people over 65 and in people with special risk factors.

Before the introduction of the vaccine, 60–80 children under the age of two were affected annually by serious pneumococcal disease. Most children had been healthy previously and had not been particularly predisposed to disease.

Common side-effects

Redness, swelling, tenderness or pain at the sting site occurs in more than 10 % of the vaccinated, and may last for a few days.

Anxiety, irritability, crying, malaise, sleepiness, decreased appetite or feeling unwell for 1-2 days after vaccination occurs in some. It can be difficult to know if such symptoms are due to vaccine or something else.

Short-term fever occurs in more than 1 in 10 and is more common when the vaccine is given with other vaccines. Fever above 39.5˚C occurs in less than 1 in 100, and it is recommended to contact a physician to clarify if there is another reason for the fever that requires treatment.

The vaccine used is Prevenar 13.