Are Conjugate Vaccines Safe?


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Conjugate vaccines are an important method of immunising against diseases caused by bacteria possessing a polysaccharide (type of sugar) coating. This coat can sometimes allow the bacteria to evade our body’s defences, particularly amongst young children. By immunising against these bacteria, which include virulent and dangerous agents like Haemophilus influenzae B (Hib), children across the UK are spared potentially life threatening conditions like meningitis and pneumonia.

This article takes a look at the safety of conjugate vaccines, and the side affects you can expect if you or your children receive a conjugate vaccine.

Safety of conjugate vaccines

Conjugate vaccines are considered safe because the immunisation contains no traces of bacteria, meaning that there is no chance of becoming inadvertently infected through the use of a conjugated vaccine. The safety profile of such vaccines like PCV (pneumococcal conjugate vaccine), which is used to immunise against pneumococcus), has thus far proven to be outstanding. Any and all adverse effects are reported through the Yellow Card scheme to ensure that the vaccine remains safe.

Conjugate vaccines can be safely used amongst certain vulnerable groups who would not normally be considered for immunisation through vaccines containing living pathogen. These include pregnant women, elderly people, anyone suffering from chronic organ disease (like congenital heart syndrome or COPD for example), or the immunocompromised (patients with a weakened immune system).

Side effects of conjugate vaccine

The conjugate vaccines used to date here in the UK have shown few side effects, and in most cases where side effects have been observed they have been mild and have resolved quickly. Typical side effects that should affect about 10% of the people receiving conjugate vaccines include hardening, reddening, and swelling where the injection has been administered, some malaise, a mild fever, and irritability. Other effects have been observed but these are rare and resolve quickly, however if in doubt it is always worth talking to your doctor about your concerns.

As with all medicines and vaccines, there is a small risk of an allergic reaction to the vaccine or one of its components. Most allergic reactions will be mild (a skin rash and nothing more), however in extremely rare cases anaphylactic shock may occur. This is an acute reaction which results in difficulty breathing and collapse. Anaphylaxis can be quickly treated through an epinephrine injection, however it is still a severe reaction which is a concern should it occur.

Conjugate vaccines have thus far proven to be extremely reliable and very safe, two features key to any successful vaccination.


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