Pentacel is approved for preventing several potentially serious conditions, including polio, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib). Healthcare providers may also occasionally recommend off-label uses of Pentacel, such as for providing the Hib vaccine to children who do not yet need another polio or DTaP vaccine during Hib vaccine shortages.
Many healthcare providers and parents prefer to use combination vaccines whenever possible in order to reduce the number of injections a child must receive. Using Pentacel instead of the individual vaccines reduces the number of injections that a baby receives by up to seven injections during the first two years of life.
Boosters of the diphtheria, tetanus, and sometimes pertussis components (as the Tdap or Td vaccines) will be needed periodically throughout life. Additionally, a polio booster is recommended at the age of four to six years of age.
How Does Pentacel Work?
This vaccine contains several different components, including tetanus and diphtheria toxoids, pertussis antigens, Hib polysaccharides, and an inactivated (killed) polio virus. None of the components of this vaccine are "live," which means that the vaccine cannot cause diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, Hib, or polio. This is especially important for polio, since a different polio vaccine (the oral polio vaccine) can, in rare cases, actually cause polio.
Simply stated, the components of this vaccine "trick" the body into thinking it has been exposed to these different infections. The body produces antibodies that will help fight the infections if future exposure occurs.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Updated recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) regarding routine poliovirus vaccination. MMWR 2009; 58: 829-30.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Vaccine information statement: multiple vaccines (9/18/08). CDC Web site. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/downloads/vis-multi.pdf. Accessed August 17, 2009.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Recommended immunization schedule for persons aged 0 through 6 years -- United States (2009). CDC Web site. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/recs/schedules/downloads/child/2009/09_0-6yrs_schedule_pr.pdf. Accessed August 17, 2009.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Polio vaccine questions and answers (4/7/07). CDC Web site. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/polio/vac-faqs.htm. Accessed August 17, 2009.
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