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A family shares the story of their young son who developed a pneumococcus infection which resulted in hearing loss in one ear. Experts also explain how the pneumococcal vaccine works to prevent meningitis, a brain and spinal cord infection.
In this video series, physicians at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia explain how vaccines work and how they are made. The video also describes several vaccines and the diseases they prevent. Families share their stories of children affected by vaccine-preventable diseases.
Amanda D. Castel, MD: Pneumococcus is a bacteria that causes meningitis, which is an infection of the brain and spinal cord. Pneumonia, which is an infection of the lungs and bloodstream infections, also known as sepsis. The pneumococcal vaccine was first used for babies in the United States in the year 2000. Before that, pneumococcus caused thousands of severe infections every year in young children, and some families are still coping with the consequences of those infections.
Alan MacKenzie, parent: Yeah, I can remember we had an earache, then it was sort of a severe earache. Then it was nausea, and he could not keep anything down, and we were starting to be dehydrated. Then it was Collin hallucinating, and we knew we were in serious trouble. Then the doctors are starting to, at the Emergency Room, were showing some very serious concern. And we start hearing of things that, you know, superficially sound terrible, but we don't know anything. It is a our first child. We had no idea what meningitis was.
Mary Ellen, parent: They had a confirmation through a spinal tap that Collin had a white cell count of 26, that they could not guarantee us he was going to live.
Alan MacKenzie, parent: The doctors are still saying, "It's all probability. You're not out of the woods yet. Something could happen. You know, just be emotional prepared for it." And it was really towards the ends where I thought we were beyond it all. We had been out of the emergency for a bit, and he seemed to be getting a little better. And then he had a terrible headache one night, and he was complaining of severe pain outside his ear. And I think that's when he lost the hearing in that ear.
Mary Ellen, parent: So many people say to us, why is this still a tragedy four years later? I think you should be grateful. And the truth of the matter is, we are incredibly grateful. But Collin is profoundly deaf in the left ear.
Alan MacKenzie, parent: Once you've lost hearing in one ear, the concentration is very difficult. You can't automatically filter out background noises. All noise is coming through. So imagine a movie where you really couldn't hear the main character speak because the traffic and everything else was the same volume. That's his life.
Amanda D. Castel, MD: So how do we keep pneumococcus from harming our children? The bacteria pneumococcus is covered by a complex sugar. The pneumococcal vaccine is made by taking the sugar coat, stripping it away from the bacteria, and attaching it to a helpful protein. Now, children can develop immunity to pneumococcus without ever having to risk infection in the actual bacteria.
Paul A. Offit, MD: Just like the pneumococcal vaccine, the next vaccine prevents what was at one time a very common cause of bacterial meningitis.
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