Vaccine may prevent infant pneumonia infection

A pneumococcal conjugate vaccine introduced a decade ago in the United States appears to reduce pneumonia and serious associated complications in children under one year of age, researchers have recently revealed.

The vaccine, PCV7, is administered to infants to prevent infection with Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, which is the leading cause of pneumonia, reports. S. pneumonia can also cause ear infections, sinusitis, blood infections and meningitis.

According to findings published in the journal Pediatrics by researchers at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, PCV7 protects against seven of the most common of the 90 strains of pneumococcal bacteria.

The study examined 619,102 patients under the age of 18 who were hospitalized for "community-acquired pneumonia" in the years 1997, 2000, 2003 or 2006, reports.

From 1997 to 2006, the rate of hospitalizations declined by 22 percent, the study revealed, while the rate of hospitalizations for pneumonia in children between six and 12 increased by 22 percent and by more than 40 percent for children over the age of 13.

“This is the first national study to comprehensively examine rates of pneumonia-related complications before and after the introduction of the PCV7 vaccine,” Grace E. Lee, a lead researcher in the study and pediatric infectious diseases fellow at Children’s Hospital, told “Rates of systemic complications such as sepsis and respiratory failure decreased by 9 percent overall and approximately 35 percent for infants less than one year of age. The overall 9 percent decrease in systemic complication rates for the entire population in the study was largely attributable to the decrease in rates for infants and might be explained in part by the fact that infants have been the primary recipient of the vaccine.

“In contrast, rates of hospitalization for lung complications such as empyema increased by more than 70 percent for children between one and 18 years of age."

No reason for this increase is currently known.