Why it is essential to vaccinate children for pneumococcus

It’s called Streptococcus pneumoniae. It is a bacterium which, in spite of its name, can help prevent not only pulmonary infections, but also acute otitis media and above all invasive pathologies which can lead to very serious cases, such as meningitis. Recently in Europe the green light was given to a version that protects against 15 different strains of the vaccine for children and adolescents, from six months of age to 18 years of age. But why can this vaccination for pneumococcus be useful? And what can you expect?

Children and pneumococcal disease

The pneumococcal disease is an infection caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae, or pneumococcus. Although there are more than 100 different strains of this germ, the so-called serotypes, a select number of these are responsible for most of the pneumococcal infections.

Invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) can cause serious and potentially life-threatening infections such as bacteremia (infection in the bloodstream); bacterial pneumonia (pneumonia with bacteremia); And meningitis (infection of the linings of the brain and spinal cord).

“The big news introduced by this vaccine, which until now was approved for subjects aged 18 or over, is the extension of the indication to children and adolescents to prevent invasive and non-invasive pneumococcal diseases – he comments Giancarlo Icardi, UOC Director of Hygiene, IRCCS San Martino General Hospital of Genoa – DISSAL University of Genoa. A circle has come full circle, so to speak, because the 15-valent can now be used starting from 6 weeks of life and up to 18 years of age. It is a big step forward for Public Health, because the greater the number of serotypes, the greater the protection conferred on the population. Switching from a 13-valent to a 15-valent vaccine means increasing the possibility of preventing invasive pneumococcal diseases, diseases such as meningitis or sepsis, pneumonia and acute otitis media which often cause hospitalization”.

Are children at risk of pneumococcal infection?

As Susanna Esposito, Director of the Pediatric Clinic of the Pietro Barilla AOU Hospital in Parma and Full Professor of Pediatrics, University of Parma, recalls, “in Italy, every year, considering all age groups, several hundred invasive pneumococcal infections are reported. These are numbers that normally range from 600 to 800 cases which include children and adults. If we consider the forme invasive, the serotypes most involved are 19, 1, 3 and 5. Following the diffusion of the 13-valent pneumococcal vaccine and following the decline in pneumococcal infections caused by some of these serotypes, the importance of serotypes 22F and 33F. Therefore, the 15-valent conjugate vaccine is very useful because, compared to the previous one, it also allows to cover these emerging serotypes which have a significant weight in invasive pneumococcal infections”.

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“Among the bacterial agents that cause even severe infections, the pediatrician is well aware of the dangers of pneumococcus – reports Antonio D’Avino, President of FIMP – the Italian Federation of Pediatrician Doctors. We know this bacterium, especially in particular age groups – and scientific data show that infants are most at risk – is the cause not only of very severe infections such as meningitis and sepsis, but also frequently causes ear infections, pneumonia and other pathologies. That is why ours is especially important counseling function for parentsto whom we always recommend following the indications of the vaccination calendar where the vaccination against the pneumococcus is regularly associated with the vaccination for the hexavalent starting from the second month of life”.

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