Safety of PPV

Pneumococcal infections are a serious threat, and able to cause a wide range of infections including pneumonia and bacterial meningitis. Fortunately two vaccines exist in popular use to immunise against some of the more dangerous strains of the pneumococcus bacterium, and these are PCV, the pneumococcus conjugate vaccine, and PPV, also known as the pneumococcus polysaccharide vaccine. Both injections are safe and effective methods of dealing with pneumococcal bacteria, and in this article we look at the safety of the second of the two injections, PPV.

What are the side effects of PPV?

PPV is known for causing minimal side effects. About half of the recipients of the vaccine can expect some soreness, swelling, or redness at the site of injection. Less than one in every hundred patients experiences a mild fever and myalgia (muscle soreness) after the vaccine.

Side effects are carefully evaluated before the release of any vaccine, and all medical products continue to be monitored through the Yellow Card Scheme. This is an initiative designed to record and report any and all adverse reactions to medical products, and thereby ensure the health and safety of the general public. It is through this scheme and other review processes that PPV is now known to cause minimal side effects, even fewer than those observed upon administration of its sister vaccine PCV.

What cautions are applied to the administration of PPV?

There are some cautions applied to the use of PPV to ensure that the vaccine is appropriately and safely given to achieve immunity against pneumococcal infection. If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a vaccine you should inform your GP so that they can assess whether or not you might have a reaction to PPV. Similarly, if you have had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), you must make sure that your doctor is aware of it prior to any vaccination. In most cases mild allergies can be ignored as the benefits of PPV are significant, however anaphylaxis is very serious and your doctor needs to know about it to make the best decision for you and your health.

If you or your child are suffering from a high fever or other serious illness when you have been scheduled for a PPV vaccination, you should inform your doctor about your condition as you will probably need to have the appointment rescheduled. This is because if you are suffering from an illness it is often difficult to assess whether the vaccine has caused any side effects.

PPV is considered safe to use during pregnancies, however in some cases your doctor may recommend waiting until after you’ve delivered your child before pursuing vaccination.

If you are classed as immunosuppressed your doctor will probably administer additional doses of PPV to ensure that you have been adequately immunised. Immunosuppression is essentially when the body’s defences (immune system) have been weakened and can’t function as they normally would. This typically occurs as a consequence of some diseases like HIV, or after intensive cancer therapies like chemo- or radiotherapy. Because the body’s defences don’t respond the way they should, it can take more than the usual amount of vaccine to get the appropriate response.

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