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What are conjugate vaccines?

Conjugate vaccines, such as the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, take advantage of the immune system's ability to recognize proteins. A conjugate vaccine connects a protein very closely to specific types of bacteria. These vaccines have been shown to cause powerful, long-lasting immune responses and have excellent safety profiles.
Conjugate vaccines are typically used to provide protection against certain types of bacterial infection, particularly in very young children. These bacteria, including those that cause bacterial meningitis, are surrounded by a thick capsule called a polysaccharide coating. This coating helps the bacteria hide from the immune system.

The body can still produce antibodies against the bacterial antigens and provide some short-lived protection, but this type of protection doesn't develop in children until they are about 2 years old. So many polysaccharide vaccines for adults and older children don't work in younger children, leaving children highly susceptible to the illnesses those bacteria cause.

Enter the conjugate vaccine. Antigens (germs) that the baby's immune system does recognize are attached to the polysaccharide coating. The infant's immune system learns to recognize polysaccharide coatings as dangerous and to defend against them.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.