Pneumococcus is a germ that is responsible for causing most cases of severe pneumonia, and many cases of meningitis and blood stream infections in children in Pakistan. Infection by this germ are preventable by vaccine, which is given as a shot to infants and toddlers. It helps prevent pneumococcal disease, and also stops the disease from spreading from person to person. Three doses of this vaccine are given in the first year, preferably at 6 weeks, 10 weeks and 14 weeks of age, and the fourth dose is given at 15 months of age. If the vaccine is not given at above ages, it can be given later as well.
The pneumococcal vaccine is routinely used in almost all developed countries. It has been available in Pakistan for the past few years, but it is quite expensive . Each dose of this vaccine costs around Rs.4000. However, the Government of Pakistan with support from international donors like World Health Organization, Global Alliance for Vaccines Initiative and Gates Foundation has now introduced this vaccine in the free immunization program for children in Pakistan. This means that children who are now starting their vaccination series at around 6 weeks of age will be getting this vaccine free of cost at 6, 10 and 14 weeks of age. Needless to say that we strongly recommend that all parents who have a child under one year old should take advantage of this free pneumococcal vaccine.
If parents want to vaccinate their older children as well, they have to pay for their vaccine. We recommend that parents vaccinate their older children under two years of age with this vaccine if they can afford it.
The brand names for the pneumococcal vaccine available in Pakistan are Synflorix and Prevnar. The vaccine's protection lasts at least 3 years. Because most serious pneumococcal infections happen during the first 2 years of life, the vaccine protects children when they are at greatest risk.