PCV13 helps protect people from pneumococcal disease, which is a leading cause of serious illness in children and older adults. The bacterium pneumococcus causes it, and if this bacterium gets into the lungs, it can cause the most common form of community-acquired bacterial pneumonia. Pneumonia causes more deaths than any other infectious disease, according to the CDC.
In March 2010, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended PCV13 replace the original 7-valent vaccine, PCV7, for all children, and a supplemental dose of PCV13 be given to children aged 14-59 months who had previously been vaccinated with PCV7.
In June 2011, a 2-year-old California girl who had been vaccinated with PCV7 but did not receive the additional PCV13 shot died from serotype 19A, which is one of the six additional types of pneumococcal disease covered by PCV13.
"Serotype 19A is the most worrisome. It is the most prevalent of the new serotypes covered by PCV13 and it is more likely to have antibiotic resistance associated with it," notes Kimberlin.
"The likelihood of pneumococcal deaths is tremendously lower when babies are vaccinated. And it is not just beneficial to the young, but also the older adults they come in contact with," Kimberlin adds.
Kimberlin says parents should ask their child's doctor about the vaccine.
"Children in the recommended age range for this supplemental PCV13 dose regularly see the doctor, so as parents bring them in, this is one of those good questions they can bring their pediatrician," says Kimberlin.
Also, Kimberlin says the influenza vaccine can actually help stave off pneumococcus by decreasing the chance that it can cause pneumonia in someone with influenza. Everyone age 6 months and older is recommended to get the influenza vaccine yearly.