The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated its pneumonia vaccine guidelines for infants and young children. HCPs and HCP students alike can expect a number of different facilities to tweak their practice policies as a direct result. Why are these changes so important, and what adjustments may have to be made for HCPs and facilities alike? This article breaks down everything you need to know about the CDC’s most recent suggestions.
What is pneumococcal disease?
“Pneumococcal disease” actually refers to a number of different conditions that are caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria. This includes (but is not limited to) ear infections, sinus diseases, lung infections, and bloodstream infections. Most seriously, the bacteria can infect the structures surrounding the brain and the spinal cord. This makes the bacteria the leading cause of meningitis among children under the age of 5. Overall there are 100 strains of the bacteria, although only a handful of them actually cause the aforementioned infections.
What changes have been made to the CDC’s vaccine guidelines.
The pneumonia vaccine protects patients from the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria itself, and all its associated conditions. Per the CDC, pneumococcal disease is attributed to have caused 150,000 hospitalizations on an annual basis. In particular, certain groups of people are more vulnerable to these bacterial infections than others. This includes the elderly, adults with autoimmune conditions and (most relevant for our purposes) children and infants.
To protect younger populations, the CDC has expanded its scope. Now, it recommends that children under from 2 to 23 months of age are allowed to receive the PCV20 variant of the pneumonia vaccine. At the time of writing, these are the current CDC pneumonia vaccine recommendations:
Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine 13 (PCV13) — covers 13 serotypes
Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine 15 (PCV15) — covers 15 serotypes
Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine 20 (PCV 20) — covers 20 serotypes
Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine 23 (PPSV23) — covers 23 serotypes
PPSV23 offers the most coverage but it is considered too dangerous for infants. Instead, children from 2 to 23 months can receive the vaccine with the second best coverage, as of June 2023.
What has changed for HCPs and HCP students?
Understandably, the new guidelines have changed the vaccine protocol for many healthcare providers. This is especially the case if you work in neonatal and pediatric departments, as well as outpatient pediatric clinics (just to name a few.) Though there are no unifying guidelines, HCPs can expect to make the following adaptations:
For one, the vaccine you are given heavily depends on your age, current condition, and Past Medical History. To ensure that children are given the proper and safe vaccine shots, HCPs may be asked to follow a certain procedure in order to collect a young patient’s Past Medical History from their parents or guardians. This includes, but is not limited to, allergies, recent illnesses, chronic illnesses and more. Nurses can also expect to inform and educate parents and guardians on the vaccine. This is usually done through providing vaccine information sheets that contain the most updated information regarding vaccination.
This is a crucial step in combating misinformation and assuaging any doubts a parental figure may have. Finally, you have to remind and encourage parents for follow up shots or boosters, whenever an update arrives. Each hospital will have their different procedures in this regard, but it will be a necessary step, especially for HCPs who work in neonatal or pediatric settings.