Pneumonia vaccine highly effective, especially for seniors and babies

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Here s more good news on the vaccine front. Prevnar the 7-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, meaning it protects against seven different strains of the bug was found to prevent 168,000 hospitalizations in each of the 12 years it has been used in the United States, and its effectiveness has not diminished. Those individuals ages 85 and over see the most benefit from the vaccine, with 73,000 hospitalizations prevented every year, but children under two also benefit greatly. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, hospitalizations have been reduced by 43 percent per year in this age group since the vaccine became available.

Furthermore, Dr. Marie Griffin, lead author of the study from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, reports that the vaccine was found to reduce the time spent in the hospital for pneumonia treatment. She also adds that although children are the only group routinely vaccinated against pneumonia, the rate of hospitalization for older adults has gone down. She attributes this to a concept known as herd immunity: protecting the un-vaccinated by impeding the spread of communicable disease amongst the protected.

Dr. Paul Goepfert, director of the Vaccine Research Clinic at the University of Alabama at Birmingham expands on this concept, saying that this is just another reason parents should vaccinate their children. This is not only helping your child, it s helping the adults around your child. And that s very important, given that among those over 75, pneumonia is fatal.

And on a related note, a newer vaccine protecting against 13 strains of pneumonia has been marketed since 2010. Originally it was approved only for use in children ages 6 weeks to 17 years and adults over 50. It has now been approved by the European medicines regulator for adults ages 18 to 49.

Interestingly, although the FDA has approved the 13-valent vaccine for adults 50+, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) an agency of the CDC that is responsible for establishing vaccine schedules has refused to recommend the vaccine for this group, meaning that it will not be covered by Medicare in this country. Dr. Bloom addressed this issue last year in his op-ed in the New York Post entitled "The ugly toll of health efficiency ."