Who gets the PPV Injection?

Pneumococcal infections are a major concern across the world, particularly for certain at-risk groups who are more likely to suffer from these illnesses. Pneumococcus is a highly variable bacterium, and different strains can cause a plethora of different infections, many of which can be life threatening. Examples include pneumonia, a major concern amongst young children, the elderly, and immunocompromised, and such conditions as septicaemia and bacterial meningitis. Fortunately the advent of vaccination has dramatically reduced the number of cases of pneumococcal infection reported every year, however, despite this, regular vaccination is still necessary to prevent unwanted outbreaks. In this article we look at the PPV vaccine and who needs to receive the injection.

Who receives PPV?

There are actually two separate pneumococcal vaccines, each applied to a particular condition or situation. The first is the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), and the second, the focus of this article, is the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV). While PCV is administered to children as part of the routine vaccination programme, PPV is usually given to adults.

Adults at or above the age of 65 receive a polysaccharide vaccine to protect them from any future infection. A one-off dose is all that is needed to immunise against this disease. PPV is extremely effective in this role, and has proven a successful method of protecting this vulnerable age group against potentially life threatening disease.

High risk groups can also benefit from PPV, and anyone aged between 2 and 64 years can benefit from a PPV immunisation to protect them against pneumococcal infection. Examples of conditions that count as high-risk include:

  • Splenic damage or disease (the spleen is an important blood filtering organ with vital immune roles).
  • Chronic diseases of the liver (e.g. cirrhosis), kidney (e.g. nephrotic syndrome), the respiratory system (like COPD), or the heart (e.g. congenital heart disease) all class as high-risk conditions.
  • Diabetes can render some people vulnerable to pneumococcus.
  • Immunosuppression whether because of an HIV infection (which targets the immune system), steroid use, or cancer treatment (e.g. chemotherapy) renders individuals vulnerable to pneumococcus.

Who can’t have the PPV injection?

PPV has been established as an extremely safe vaccine, and as such its use is considered safe even amongst more vulnerable groups like the pregnant. However there are instances where the use of PPV is not administered for safety reasons. Allergies are usually the main concern with PPV, and while in most cases a mild reaction like a rash would be ignored in favour of the benefits of the vaccine, any history of anaphylaxis is very serious and would impact on whether or not the vaccine can be used.

Anaphylaxis, also referred to as anaphylactic shock, is when the body undergoes a severe allergic reaction in response to a particular substance. The signs of anaphylaxis are usually breathing difficulties and collapse, and while treatment is simple and works quickly, it is a severe reaction that should be avoided for safety reasons. If you have had a history of anaphylaxis in response to vaccines you will need to consult your doctor as in most cases this is a safety concern that would mean you are not suitable for vaccination with PPV.

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