Tag: Pneumovax

Vaccines for Kids with Asplenia

Asplenia means lack of a spleen or a spleen that doesn’t work.

Although the spleen is an important organ that helps your body fight infections, in addition to other functions, it is certainly possible to live without a spleen.

Asplenia

There are many reasons a child might have asplenia, including:

  • congenital asplenia (children born without a spleen), sometimes associated with severe cyanotic congenital heart disease, such as transposition of the great arteries
  • surgical removal (splenectomy) secondary to trauma or anatomic defects
  • surgical removal to prevent complications of other conditions, such as ITP, hereditary spherocytosis, pyruvate kinase deficiency, Gaucher disease, and hypersplenism, etc.

And some children simply have a spleen that doesn’t work (functional asplenia) or doesn’t work very well because of sickle-cell disease and some other conditions.

Vaccines for Children with Asplenia

Because the spleen has such an important function in helping fight infections, without a spleen, a child is at increased risk for infections.

Specifically, there is a risk for severe infections from the Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, and Neisseria meningitidis bacteria.

Fortunately, there are vaccines that protect against many subtypes of these bacteria, including:

  • Hib – protects against Haemophilus influenzae type B
  • Meningococcal conjugate vaccines – Menactra or Menveo, which protect against 4 common types of the Neisseria meningitidis bacteria – serogroups ACWY
  • Serogroup B Meningococcal vaccines – Bexsero or Trunemba, which protect against Neisseria meningitidis serogroup B
  • Prevnar 13 – protects against 13 subtypes of Streptococcus pneumoniae
  • Pneumovax 23 – protects against 23 subtypes of Streptococcus pneumoniae

Although Prevnar, Hib, and the meningococcal vaccines (Menactra or Menveo and Bexsero or Trunemba) are part of the routine immunization schedule, there are additional recommendations that can change the timing for when kids get them if they have asplenia.

Some kids need extra protection from vaccines.
Some kids need extra protection from vaccines. Photo by Janko Ferlic.

According to the latest recommendations, in addition to all of the  other routine immunizations that they should get according to schedule, children with asplenia should get:

  • one dose of the Hib vaccine if they are older than age 5 years “who are asplenic or who are scheduled for an elective splenectomy” and have not already vaccinated against Hib. Unvaccinated younger kids should get caught up as soon as possible. In general though, Hib is given according to the standard immunization schedule. This recommendation is about kids who are behind on the shot.
  • two doses of a meningococcal conjugate vaccine, either Menactra or Menveo, two months apart once a child with asplenia is at least two years old and a booster dose every five years. Infants with asplenia can instead get a primary series of Menveo at 2, 4, 6, and 12 months, with a first booster dose after three years, and a second booster after another five years. Older infants can get Menactra at 9 and 12 months, again, with a first booster dose after three years, and a second booster after another five years. While these vaccines are recommended for all kids, those with asplenia get them much earlier than the standard age.
  • either a two dose series of Bexsero or a three dose series of Trunemba, once they are at least 10 years old. The Men B vaccines are only formally recommended for high risk kids, others can get it if they want to be protected.
  • between one to four doses of Prevnar, depending on how old they are when they start and complete the series. Keep in mind that unlike healthy children who do not routinely get Prevnar after they are 5 years old, older children with asplenia can get a single dose of Prevnar up to age 65 years if they have never had it before. Like Hib, this recommendation is about kids who are behind on the shot.
  • a dose of Pneumovax 23 once they are at least two years old, with a repeat dose five years later and a maximum of two total doses. Kids who are not high risk typically don’t get this vaccine.

Ideally, children would get these vaccines at least two to three weeks before they were going to get a planned splenectomy. Of course, that isn’t always possible in the case of the emergency removal of a child’s spleen, in which case they should get the vaccines as soon as they can.

More About Asplenia

In addition to these vaccines, preventative antibiotics are typically given once a child’s spleen is removed or is no longer working well. Although there are no definitive guidelines for all children who have had a splenectomy, many experts recommend daily antibiotics (usually penicillin or amoxicillin) until a child is at least 5 years old and for at least 1 year after their splenectomy.

Other less common bacteria that can be a risk for children with asplenia can include Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella species, Klebsiella species, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Vaccines aren’t yet available for these bacteria, so you might take other precautions, such as avoiding pet reptiles, which can put kids at risk for Salmonella infections.

Children with asplenia are at increased risk for severe malaria and babesiosis (a tickborne illness) infections. That makes it important to take malaria preventative medications and avoid mosquitoes if traveling to places that have high rates of malaria and to do daily tick checks when camping, etc.

A medical alert type bracelet, indicating that your child has had his spleen removed, can be a good idea in case he ends up in the emergency room with a fever and doctors don’t know his medical history.

Keep in mind that since there are many different causes of asplenia, the specific treatment plan for your child may be a little different than that described here. Talk to your pediatrician and any pediatric specialists that your child sees.

What to Know about Vaccines for Children with Asplenia

Children with asplenia typically need extra vaccines and protection against pneumococcal disease, Hib, and meningococcal disease.

More about Vaccines for Children with Asplenia

Vaccine Schedule for Children with Down Syndrome

Has someone got you thinking that you need to skip or delay some vaccines for your child with Down syndrome?

Just because your child has Down syndrome doesn't mean that you should skip or delay any of their vaccines.
Just because your child has Down syndrome doesn’t mean that you should skip or delay any of their vaccines. Photo by Melissa Wall (CC BY 2.0)

Are you now on the fence and looking for a specific vaccine schedule for children with Down syndrome?

Vaccine Schedule for Children with Down Syndrome

Vaccine schedules for children with Down syndrome are quite easy to find.

They are the same as the vaccine schedules for every other children!

Unless they have another medical contraindication, there is no reason to skip or delay any of your child’s vaccines just because they have Down syndrome.

“Administer pneumococcal vaccine, as well as other vaccines recommended for all children unless there are specific contraindications.”

American Academy of Pediatrics Health Supervision for Children With Down Syndrome

In fact, because people with Down syndrome can be more susceptible to some infections, it is extra important that they be vaccinated on time, including that they get a yearly flu shot.

Do they need any extra vaccines?

Many  experts recommend that children with Down syndrome get a dose of the Pneumovax vaccine (pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine or PPSV23) when they are at least two years old and at least eight weeks after completing their Prevnar 13 series. While the ACIP guidelines for Pneumovax doesn’t specifically mention Down syndrome, they do say that the vaccine is important for some children with chronic medical conditions and immune system problems.

“Well child care: immunizations; If chronic cardiac or pulmonary disease, give 23-valent pneumococcal vaccine age > 2 years.”

National Down Syndrome Society Guide for New and Expectant Parents

Talk to your pediatrician to see if your child with Down syndrome needs Pneumovax, especially if they get sick a lot or have chronic heart or lung problems. Some kids might even need a second dose of Pneumovax five years after the first dose.

What to Know About Vaccines and Down Syndrome

Your child with Down syndrome should be fully vaccinated on time without any delays, as there are no contraindications and he or she could be at increased risk for some infections.

More About Vaccines and Down Syndrome

 

Vaccines in Special Situations

In addition to getting routine vaccines, there are some special situations in which kids need extra vaccines or extra dosages of vaccines.

800px-infant_with_cochlear_implant
Children with a cochlear implant need the Pneumovax 23 vaccine.

Traveling out of the country and being pregnant are almost certainly the most common special situation when it comes to vaccines.

Vaccines for High Risk Conditions

Other special situations include children with high risk conditions, such as:

  • complement component deficiencies – Menveo or Menactra, MenB
  • chronic heart disease – PPSV23
  • chronic lung disease (not including asthma) – PPSV23
  • diabetes mellitus – PPSV23
  • CSF leaks – PPSV23
  • cochlear implants – PPSV23
  • chronic liver disease – PPSV23
  • cigarette smoking – PPSV23
  • sickle cell disease – PPSV23
  • congenital or acquired asplenia – Menveo or Menactra, PPSV23, MenB
  • congenital or acquired immunodeficiencies – PPSV23
  • HIV infection – PPSV23
  • chronic renal failure – PPSV23
  • nephrotic syndrome – PPSV23
  • leukemia – PPSV23
  • lymphoma – PPSV23
  • hodgkin disease – PPSV23
  • iatrogenic immunosuppression – PPSV23
  • solid organ transplant – PPSV23
  • multiple myeloma – PPSV23

In general,  the 23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine, PPSV23 or Pneumovax 23, should be given when a high risk child is at least 2 years old and at least 4 weeks after their last dose of Prevnar 13. Some will need an additional booster dose of Pneumovax 23 after five years.

Remember, most children routinely get 4 doses of Prevnar 13 when they are 2, 4, 6, and 12-15 months old.

And while most kids just get one dose of PPSV23, others, especially those with any type of immunosuppression, get a repeat dose every five years.

Getting Revaccinated

Are there ever situations when kids need to get revaccinated?

While it might be hard to believe, there are more than a few reasons that kids get revaccinated.

The most obvious is when kids lose their vaccine records, although checking vaccine titers might help avoid repeating some or all of your child’s vaccines.

Children who have had a hematopoietic cell transplant (HCT) should routinely get revaccinated:

  • starting with inactivated vaccines six months after the transplant, including a 3-dose regiment of Prevnar 13, followed by PPSV23, a 3-dose regiment of Hib, and a yearly flu shot and other inactivated vaccines
  • continuing with a dose of MMR 24 months after the transplant if they are immunocompetent and possibly the chicken pox vaccine

Children who are adopted in a foreign country also often need to repeat all or most of their vaccines. Again, titers can often be done to avoid repeating doses.

Other Special Situations

Other special situations in which your child might need to get vaccinated off the standard immunization schedule might include:

  • missing one or more vaccines and needing to catch-up
  • getting exposed to rabies (cats, dogs, raccoons, skunks, bats, foxes, and coyotes)
  • having a wound that is not considered clean and minor (usually “wounds contaminated with dirt, feces, soil, and saliva; puncture wounds; avulsions; and wounds resulting from missiles, crushing, burns, and frostbite”) if it has been more than five years since their last dose of tetanus vaccine (or a clean and minor wound and it has been more than 10 years)
  • getting exposed to chicken pox (or shingles) or measles and not being fully vaccinated (two doses of the chicken pox and two doses of the MMR vaccines) or naturally immune, as a vaccine within 72 hours may decrease their risk of getting sick

Do your kids have a medical condition that might put them at high risk for a vaccine-preventable disease?

Do they need a vaccine that other kids don’t routinely get?

For More Information on Vaccines in Special Situations

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