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Pneumococci: vaccination protects against dangerous infection
According to estimates, around 5,000 people die from pneumococcal infection in Germany every year. Even though you can protect yourself against the pathogens with a vaccination. Experts explain what needs to be considered.
Serious diseases caused by widespread bacteria
Pneumococci are bacteria that can be found in many people in the mouth, nose and throat - mostly without causing an illness. However, if the immune system cannot keep the pathogens at bay, they can spread and cause infections such as sinus infection or otitis media. However, potentially life-threatening diseases such as meningitis and blood poisoning can also be caused by these bacteria. And a large part of pneumonia is caused by pneumococci. However, experts warn that too few people are protected against the pathogens.
5,000 pneumococcal deaths annually
According to estimates, around 5,000 people die of pneumococcal infection in Germany every year. Infants and toddlers in particular are at risk because their immune systems are not yet fully developed.
But even those who are older or have chronic conditions are more likely to get sick from the bacteria. There is currently no nationwide reporting requirement for pneumococcal infections.
A total of 97 different types of pathogens are distinguished. Not all of them are dangerous.
Vaccination can protect against infection.
Health experts from the Stiftung Warentest explain on their website what needs to be considered.
The health insurance companies bear the costs for all persons to whom the Standing Vaccination Committee (STIKO) recommends pneumococcal vaccination: for children up to two years and adults over 60 as well as immunodeficient people and people with certain chronic diseases.
The experts at Stiftung Warentest rated the vaccination of children against pneumococci as sensible, and that of the elderly and high-risk patients as sensible; from their point of view, the benefits should be better demonstrated.
Two types of vaccine are available
According to the information, there are two types of vaccine: polysaccharide - a vaccine made from the sugars of the bacterial envelope - and conjugate - in which the polysaccharides are still bound to a protein molecule.
As the Stiftung Warentest writes, polysaccharide vaccines do not work adequately in children up to two years of age and those with immunodeficiency.
That is why two conjugate vaccines are approved for the little ones: Prevenar, which protects against 13 pathogen types, and Synflorix, which only covers ten types. The foundation's experts recommend Prevenar.
People over 60, however, should be vaccinated with Pneumovax. This is a polysaccharide vaccine that, in addition to the 13 types of pathogen from Prevenar, also protects against ten more and therefore more broadly.
Since most of the little ones are vaccinated against pneumococci, there is a clear "herd protection" for the 13 pathogen types, which means that high vaccination rates in children also protect older people.
In order to respond better to the vaccination, the experts recommend that high-risk patients such as immunocompromised people be vaccinated with both substances.
Healthy people between the ages of two and 59 do not need vaccination.
Complications are rare
Pneumococcal vaccination is carried out with a dead vaccine that can be injected in parallel with others, for example with the flu vaccine - but not in the same arm or thigh.
Children up to two years are vaccinated against pneumococci three times in certain months of life.
This is also possible at the same time as another Pikser such as the six-fold vaccination (against diphtheria, tetanus (tetanus), polio), whooping cough (pertussis), Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and hepatitis B).
As the Stiftung Warentest writes, complications from pneumococcal vaccination are very rare. Side effects can occur, but in most cases they are over within a few days:
The puncture site often turns red, swells or hurts. General symptoms such as fever and headache can also occur.
Furthermore, children are sometimes sleepy, irritable and cry more after the vaccination.
Diseases are particularly in season in the cold months
Pneumococcal diseases are particularly in season in the wet and cold season.
The bacteria are transmitted through droplet infections such as coughing and sneezing. (ad)