What is the PCV (Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccination)?

PCV is one of many vaccines that are routinely used as part of the childhood vaccination scheme, and given to adults who are in need of immunisation against pneumococcal infections. In this article we look at the specifics of PCV, how it is used, and what it does.

What does the PCV vaccine immunise against?

PCV offers protection against a bacterium called Streptococcus pneumoniae, a microorganism of which there are many different types. The bacterium is also known as pneumococcus, and is responsible for pneumonia, a serious illness which is particularly threatening to children, the elderly, and anyone suffering from an immune issue.

Pneumococcus is most commonly associated with pneumonia, however the bacterium can cause a whole class of different infections referred to as pneumococcal infections. These include cellulitis, bacteraemia, sepsis, meningitis, endocarditis, and osteomyelitis. These are a broad range of conditions affecting a number of different parts of the body, often posing a serious risk to the health of the infected person. Pneumococcus is actually one of the most common factors behind cases of bacterial meningitis, a serious infection of the protective layer surrounding the brain.

There are actually over 90 different variants of pneumococcus, each posing a distinct and unique threat to whoever suffers from the infection. There are two types of pneumococcal vaccine, and PCV is one of them. PCV is known to immunise against 13 of the more common and virulent strains of the bacteria.

Who receives the PCV injection?

The PCV injection is offered to two groups of people. The first injection is offered to kids under the age of two, and this is an important part of the childhood vaccination programme. Children at this age can be particularly vulnerable to pneumococcal infections.

Pneumococcal injections are also offered to people over the age of 65, however this is a different type of vaccination referred to as PPV.

What kind of vaccine is the PCV?

The PCV is what is called a conjugate vaccine, and there are three vaccines available at present called Prevnar 13, Prevnar, and Synflorix. Conjugate vaccines are made from parts of the bacterium or virus in question, these components are selected on the basis of their ability to induce an immune response against a particular disease and are referred to as antigens. Antigens are extremely specific to different organisms, and in a conjugate vaccine they are coupled to a carrier protein to form an immunogen. The term immunogen refers to a molecule that is able to effectively induce an immune response and thereby immunise against a disease.

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