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Pneumococcal Vaccine - Unprotected Story

"So Many Treatments"

True story

Pneumococcal disease attacked our family with such force that we nearly lost our twin boys.

"Pneumococcal disease attacked our family with such force that we nearly lost our twin boys," says Andrea, the boys' mother.

The twins, Peter and Andy, received the pneumococcal vaccine, PCV7, when they were infants in 2000. Unfortunately, PCV7, which protects against seven common types of pneumococcal bacteria, did not protect against the specific type that made the boys sick. Today's pneumococcal vaccine, PCV13, covers 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria, including the type that caused the twins' illness.

The family's fight against pneumococcal disease began in the fall 2003. Andy and Peter were 3 years old, when they became sick. Andy developed a high fever and also had a seizure. He was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. Doctors said both boys had flu symptoms and prescribed fluids, rest, and over-the-counter medicine to treat the fever.

When Andrea noticed that Andy's skin had a yellow tinge, the family rushed the boys back to the hospital. Doctors diagnosed pneumococcal disease which can cause pneumonia (infection of the lung) and damage organs throughout the body. Both boys had pneumonia and empyema (a severe lung complication of pneumonia). Andy had hemolytic uremic syndrome (a severe kidney and blood problem). Both boys were admitted to the hospital and had tubes put into their chests to drain fluid from around their lungs.

Andy's case became more serious as the infection attacked several organs. He was placed in the intensive care unit (ICU) and put on life support. Andrea explains, "Seeing Andy on life support and dialysis to help his kidneys function was our worst nightmare. We weren't sure if he was going to make it."

Fortunately, the treatments Andy received worked, and he was taken off life support after four days. After almost 3 weeks, the boys went home from the hospital. The twins still had a long recovery. Andrea explains, "Andy was so sick and didn't talk for so long. Peter needed physical therapy to help him walk. It was so sad to see them regress because of a vaccine-preventable disease."

The twins eventually made a full recovery, but family life was impacted for months. Andrea recalls, "We were very careful with them for a long time, to protect their health, and even delayed pre-school enrollment."

Andrea says, "I feel so lucky that my boys are still here with us today. I encourage every parent to get the pneumococcal vaccine for their children."

This story is one of many recounted in the fact sheets series, Diseases & the Vaccines that Prevent Them.

For other true stories, see Vaccines: Unprotected Stories.

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