The first vaccine to prevent pneumococcal disease in children was added to the U.S. immunization schedule in 2001. Before that, Streptococcus pneumonia bacteria caused about 17,000 cases of bacteremia (blood infections), 700 cases of meningitis, and 71,000 cases of bacterial pneumonia each year. The bacteria can also cause middle ear infections (otitis media).
The pneumococcal vaccine for children is made by Pfizer and is called Prevnar. It’s given in four doses, at two months, four months, six months, and 12-15 months old. The vaccine is more than 90% effective against invasive pneumococcal disease, and the version used until early 2010 protected against seven strains of Streptococcus pneumonia, reducing the incidence of disease caused by them by 99% as of 2007.
In February of this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) licensed an updated version of the pneumococcal vaccine for children. This vaccine, Prevnar 13, protects against an additional six strains of the bacteria, and will replace the previous vaccine (Prevnar 7) in the immunization schedule, being given in four doses. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) made the following recommendations for the use of Prevnar 13:
- Children between 2 months and 59 months of age who have not yet received a previous pneumococcal vaccination should receive four doses of Prevnar 13.
- Children who have received one or more doses of Prevnar 7 should complete the recommended series of four doses with Prevnar 13.
- Children between 14 and 59 months who have received a complete series of Prevnar 7 vaccinations should receive a single dose of Prevnar 13.
More information about the licensure of the updated vaccine, as well as ACIP’s recommendations for its use, is available in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) for March 12, 2010. The CDC also has answers to frequently asked questions about pneumococcal disease for parents here, and a new list of questions and answers for health care professionals about the updated vaccine here.