Administering PCV

The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, usually abbreviated to PCV, is an immunisation against a particularly virulent bacterium, S. pneumoniae, also known as pneumococcus. There are a over 90 known variants of pneumococcus, each of which causes a variety of different infectious conditions. Pneumococcus is perhaps most well-known for pneumonia, however the bacteria is also a leading cause of bacterial meningitis, septicaemia, and a range of other conditions.

Who needs the PCV injection and when is it given?

PCV is administered as part of the childhood immunisation programme, and is given as three separate doses within 13 months of a baby’s birth. The first dose is given at two months of age, while the second and third are given at four and 13 months respectively.

Multiple doses (also referred to as booster shots) are needed for a child to become sufficiently immune to the disease because of the nature of the vaccine. PCV is a conjugate vaccine, which means that while it is extremely safe because fragments of the causative bacteria are used rather than the actual organism, it is also less efficient at inducing an immune response. This means that those extra doses are necessary to ensure adequate immunisation.

If a child is under the age of five and suffers from one of a number of high-risk conditions, then chances are they will be offered a PCV injection. High risk children are those who, because of an underlying medical condition, are more likely to develop a pneumococcal infection.

Examples of high risk children under 5 include:

  • Those who have a problem with their spleen or have had the organ remove all together.
  • Those with a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (aka COPD) or any other chronic respiratory problem.
  • Anyone with a chronic heart, kidney, or liver disease like congenital heart disease, nephrotic syndrome or cirrhosis respectively.
  • Diabetics.
  • Anyone suffering from immunosuppression (where the immune system has been weakened through disease or a treatment like chemotherapy.
  • Anyone with a cochlear implant (a specialised hearing device).

What happens if I miss a PCV dose?

If you or your child have missed a scheduled dose of PCV, the vaccination will be recorded as incomplete and you or your child will not be considered immunised against pneumococcal infections. You will need to speak to your GP about making sure that you and your child are properly immunised.

Children under one year of age who have missed a single dose can receive their remaining doses with 2 month intervals. Children between one and two years of age who have missed a dose just need one further injection to become immunised against the disease.

A child between the ages of two and five who has missed their PCV dose may be advised to arrange a further booster injection. However at this stage it depends on your doctor’s discretion and whether or not the child is part of a high-risk group.

« Safety of PCV (Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccination)? What is PPV? »