Young kids should get new Prevnar, U.S. experts say

WASHINGTON — Children younger than 5 who already got four doses of Pfizer Inc.'s Prevnar 13 vaccine should get a fifth booster dose of the new version that covers more strains of pneumonia-causing bacteria, the U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices said Feb. 24.

The committee, which advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, already recommended that unvaccinated infants get the 13-strain version of the new vaccine, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved just minutes before the committee's vote.

According to a World Health Organization estimate in 2002, pneumococcal disease is the leading cause of vaccine-preventable death worldwide in children younger than 5 years old. Pneumococcal disease is complex and describes a group of illnesses, all caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae.

Prevnar 13 is indicated for active immunization of children 6 weeks through 5 years of age for the prevention of invasive disease caused by 13 Streptococcus pneumoniae (S. pneumoniae) serotypes 1, 3, 4, 5, 6A, 6B, 7F, 9V, 14, 18C, 19A, 19F and 23F.

Prevnar 13 is also indicated for the prevention of otitis media caused by serotypes 4, 6B, 9V, 14, 18C, 19F, and 23F.

Invasive pneumococcal disease includes sepsis and bacteremia (bloodstream infections), meningitis (inflammation of the coverings of the brain and spinal cord), bacteremic pneumonia, and empyema (accumulation of pus in the cavity surrounding the lungs).

“Together, these 13 serotypes are responsible for the majority of invasive pneumococcal disease in the United States,” said Emilio Emini, chief scientific officer of vaccine research at Pfizer. “Notably, serotype 19A is now the most common invasive disease-causing serotype in young children.

“While the incidence of invasive pneumococcal disease caused by the serotypes in Prevnar has been substantially reduced since the introduction of the vaccine in 2000, invasive pneumococcal disease remains a serious health threat to infants and young children.”