Merck developing a children's pneumococcal vaccine

Merck & Co. has entered into a partnership with the Serum Institute of India Ltd. to develop a children's pneumococcal vaccine for use in developing and emerging countries.

Merck and the Serum Institute did not disclose the terms of their agreement, but reported that both companies will contribute to the manufacturing and development of the vaccine. Each company will have the rights for marketing the vaccine in separate regions, the Associated Press reports.

Merck makes Pneumovax 23, a pneumococcal vaccine recommended for adults over 65 and for younger patients with a weakened immune system. The vaccine protects against 23 strains of the disease.

Pfizer Inc.'s pneumococcal vaccine, called Prevnar 13, is intended for children against 13 strains and is the biggest selling vaccine in the world. Pfizer is currently working to get clearance to market Prevnar 13 for adults.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pneumococcal disease is an infection caused by a type of bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae. There are multiple types of the disease, including pneumococcal bacteremia, pnumonia, otitis media and meningitis. Pneumococcal disease can be fatal and in some cases it can result in long-term problems like hearing loss, brain damage and limb loss. While the vaccine is very strong at preventing severe disease, hospitalization and death, it is not guaranteed to prevent infection and symptoms in all people.