Newborns have a lot going against them. They need a lot of love, attention, feeding, changing, and innumerable other things to be done for them. They are also pretty terrible at fighting off some kinds of infections. Almost any infectious disease can infect newborns. They remain at risk until either they are exposed to it, (hopefully) survive intact, and make antibodies to it, OR until they are effectively vaccinated. For many of the worst infections that can attack newborns, we now have effective vaccines. There are, of course, some notable exceptions (HIV, RSV are two of the biggies). But one type of infection that used to scare parents and doctors alike was bacterial meningitis. There are several types of bacteria that can commonly caus meningitis, but the two most prevalent in the pre-vaccine era were Haemophilus influenzae Type B (aka HiB) and streptococcus pneumoniae (aka strep pneumo, or pneumococcus).
A vaccine was developed against HiB meningitis in 1985, which led to a race to also protect against strep pneumo meningitis. In 2000, a vaccine was licensed for use during infancy that protected against 7 strains of strep pneumo. It was called Prevnar. It was a great success, and an improved version was introduced in 2010, which added protection against 6 more strains, and the new product was called Prevnar13. Since the original introduction of Prevnar, the number of infants stricken with pneumococcal meningitis has dropped off a cliff.
Prevnar is a great success because it is able to protect infants against a very serious disease with very few doses. Most infants have protective levels after only 2 doses, which are given at 2 and 4 months of age. The other 2 doses, at 6 and 12-18 months of age, boost immunity even further.
Look, a bonus for grandparents, too:
Prevnar13 is now also used in the elderly (sorry, my parents hate that word, but it’s what everyone uses for people over 65 years), along with another (different) pneumococcal vaccine, called PPSV23. Even my parents have gotten it – they call it the “pneumonia vaccine” because in older adults, pneumococcal infection most commonly causes pneumonia.
Usual Pediatric Schedule:
- Primary series at 2, 4, and 6 months old
- Booster Dose at 12-18 months old