- Posted by Lele M
- On 01/03/2023
- pneumococcal vaccine, pneumococcus, pneumonia
What is Pneumococcal Disease?
Pneumococcal disease is infection caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae, also known as pneumococcus. It can cause illnesses ranging from ear and sinus infections to more invasive disease such as pneumonia and meningitis. Pneumococcal disease is more severe in the very young and in older people, particularly those with weakened immune systems or underlying health conditions. It is treated with antibiotics but may require hospitalisation for those who become very sick. In very severe cases it can be fatal.
How do you get it?
The pneumococcal bacteria lives in the nose and throat and can pass easily from person to person via coughing and sneezing. Some people can carry the bacteria without displaying symptoms, while others can become very unwell very quickly. This is more common in people with heart or respiratory disease, including asthma, chronic diseases which may affect the immune system, including diabetes and liver disease, in smokers and in older people. Adults are often infected by young children.
Vaccination against Pneumococcal Disease in NZ.
Vaccination can help prevent infection by stimulating the body’s immune system to produce antibodies against the pneumococcal bacteria. This means that if you are exposed to pneumococcus in the future, your immune system can respond quickly to fight the infection. In New Zealand, babies are routinely vaccinated against 10 serotypes of pneumococci. This vaccination was introduced for high risk babies in 2006, and more widely in 2008, and has led to significant reductions in these diseases amongst young children.
Vaccination for adults at risk is funded for those with certain conditions only (such as those who have no spleen, have a severe immune deficiency e.g., after chemotherapy, or are undergoing kidney dialysis). Vaccination is recommended but not funded for people with underlying conditions which would put them at greater risk if they were to contract pneumococcal disease (e.g. those with diabetes, or have chronic heart, kidney, liver or lung disease).
Are there any side effects?
The most common side-effect of all pneumococcal vaccines is discomfort, heaviness or soreness at the injection site (upper arm) for a few hours. More serious side-effects are rare, but these would be discussed with you at the screening visit.
How can I find out about new research into vaccines?
New strains of pneumococcus are now emerging which our current vaccines do not cover.
P3 Research is currently running clinical trials for a new pneumococcal vaccination, which aims to protect against more strains of pneumococcus . For more information on this study, please visit the participating site page for Wellington, Tauranga or Lower Hutt.
Dr Cheryl Archer
GP & P3 Investigator, Lower Hutt