As your child reaches the age where they will be attending pre-school or school, their Pneumococcal Disease Immunity (PDI) will lapse. Pneumococcal disease is caused by bacteria. The most common types are pneumonia and ear/chest infections which can be very serious at any age but particularly in young children.
Your GP may have recommended that your child should receive a PNA injection to prevent these illnesses from occurring. Think about all the other children that you know who have been through this experience recently! How did they cope?
The Pneumococcal vaccine has been introduced in an attempt to eradicate this potentially life-threatening disease from our society. Pneumococcal antibodies are found in a high percentage of adults due to natural exposure to the disease.
Pneumococcal is a particular problem for children as their immune systems are still developing and they have not yet developed sufficient immunity through natural exposure to the disease. Pneumococcal is also a major cause of ear, nose and throat infections in adults.
The PNA vaccine can be given from the age of 2 months onwards but usually is administered at 2, 3 and 4 months with a booster vaccination at 12-13 months of age or as per your GP’s recommendations. PNA injections should ideally be received at least 2 weeks before any expected “childhood-related” illness such as asthma, tonsillitis etc. This allows time for maximum PNA protection before any potential exposure to the disease during an illness.
PNA can be given on the same day as other vaccines if necessary. PNA is usually well tolerated by children but may occasionally cause short term sleepiness, irritability and slight fever. PNA vaccination is not recommended for infants under 2 months of age, those who are febrile (feverish) or considered to have any illness causing disruption to their immune system ie. cancer.
PNAs are available in both paediatric and adult formulations so it’s preferable to keep your child’s PNA record separate from adult records so that unnecessary vaccinations can be avoided. PNA injections are very safe with only rare severe reactions reported worldwide. Pneumococcal infection can be treated with antibiotics which provide almost instant relief within 24 hours of initiating treatment. Pneumococcal vaccination is important to protect your child from becoming unwell with PN and should be discussed with your GP at the first opportunity.
The PNA injection is currently free for children aged <5 years in Australia. This PNA vaccination is given as part of the National Immunisation Program (NIP) and all children are eligible for PNA free of charge through subsidised programs, but this may change, cutting off access to PNA completely or increasing the PNA cost beyond what some families can afford.
The vaccine manufacturer states that PNA injections are not suitable for people who are immunosuppressed either due to disease or treatment eg cancer patients on chemotherapy drugs etc – consult your doctor if you are unsure about your PNA eligibility.