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Prevnar Vaccine for Toddler?
Q: Should I give my 20-month-old child the Prevnar vaccine? She's had two ear infections and an occasional cold.
A: I would recommend Prevnar for your toddler. Prevnar is the trade name of a newly licensed pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV7) that has been shown to protect young infants against certain potentially serious infections. It has been found to be effective in preventing some types of meningitis (infection of the coverings of the brain and spinal column), bacteremia (infection of the bloodstream), pneumonia (infection of the lungs), and clinical otitis media (infection of the middle ear) caused by a specific bacteria germ (Strep Pneumoniae).
Prevnar (PCV7) is approved for routine administration to all children less than two years of age, beginning at two months of age. It is still suggested for children who did not begin receiving it at that age, but fewer doses are then necessary for catch-up to give good protection. Some mild local and systemic reactions, including fever, are associated with giving this vaccine to children, but all reactions are not serious and are self-limited. It can be given at the same time as all of the other usual childhood immunizations.
My advice is that your daughter should get two doses of the vaccine at least six to eight weeks apart, assuming there are no contraindications to receiving it. This is based solely on her age, not on any particular risk factors. The two ear infections she's had so far don't place her at high risk for this infection. PCV7 is safe, produces a good amount of antibodies (substances in the blood to fight infection), and is highly effective in preventing some of the serious diseases caused by certain types of these bacteria. Talk with your daughter's doctor about it very soon.
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Henry Bernstein, M.D., is currently the associate chief of the Division of General Pediatrics and director of Primary Care at Children's Hospital, Boston. He also has an academic appointment at Harvard Medical School.