Pneumonia Vaccines May Have Cut Kids’ Hospital Admissions

Hospital admissions for pneumonia and sinusitis among young children dropped after introduction of vaccines

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Pneumonia can be a serious illness that can lead to time in the hospital for little ones. But a new vaccine may prevent the disease in this population.

After the first pneumococcal vaccine for children younger than 2 was introduced in 2000, hospital admissions for pneumonia dropped. Now, a new, more powerful vaccine may be cutting those hospital admissions even further, suggests a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study.

And a separate study found that this new vaccine may have also lowered hospital admissions for sinusitis among children younger than 2.

Serious pneumococcal infections are common in infants and toddlers, according to the National Network for Immunization Information. These infections are caused by a bacterium called pneumococcus in the nose and throat. The infections can cause different ailments, from an inflammation of the middle ear to an inflammation of the lungs (pneumonia).

Marie R. Griffin, MD, professor of health policy and medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, and colleagues wrote the CDC study.

They reviewed data on patients younger than the age of 2 who were discharged from all non-federal hospitals throughout Tennessee. After introducing a new pneumococcal vaccine for infants and young children in 2010, hospital admissions for pneumonia among that age group declined by 27 percent by 2012, the study authors found.

Since 2000, these hospitalizations have fallen by a total of 72 percent, Dr. Griffin and colleagues found.

A vaccine is a preparation that stimulates the production of antibodies and provides immunity against one or several diseases. This new vaccine (PCV13) protects against 13 common strains of pneumococcus. The first vaccine (PCV7) protected against seven strains.

After the first vaccine was introduced, pneumonia hospitalizations in children younger than 2 declined 43 percent from 2000 to 2009 in the US.

The CDC recommended PCV13 — the new vaccine introduced in 2010 — for all children younger than 5.

"We had such a dramatic decline from the first vaccine that we really didn't know how much more effect you would get by adding six more [variations] to the vaccine,” Dr. Griffin said in a press release. “So it was very gratifying to see that there was another major drop in pneumonia hospitalizations — a pretty dramatic additional decline.”

And another study — written by Ann Lindstrand, MD, MPH, of Public Health Agency Sweden in Stockholm — found that the vaccine may have another benefit: fewer hospitalizations for sinusitis among children 2 and younger. Between 2003 and 2012, sinusitis hospital admissions fell by 66 percent among these children in Stockholm County, Sweden. Dr. Lindstrand and team said PCV7 and PCV13 likely played a part in this decrease.

Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinuses — small cavities in the face that connect with the nasal cavities. Respiratory infections like pneumonia can lead to sinusitis.

The bacterium pneumococcus is the most common cause of pneumonia in the US, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). But Dr. Griffin and team noted that this may change because the vaccine has been so successful. The assumption that pneumococcus will be the likely cause of future pneumonia cases is less certain. Other causes of pneumonia can include viruses and fungi.

“Appropriate management of childhood pneumonia in the era of pneumococcal vaccines needs to be continually assessed because the distribution of bacterial and other causes of pneumonia in young children will likely change,” Dr. Griffin and colleagues wrote.

Many people with mild pneumonia can be treated at home, often with oral antibiotics, according to the NHLBI. If symptoms like trouble breathing and chest pains persist, patients should go to the hospital.

The report by Dr. Griffin and team was released Nov. 6 in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The release coincided with the sixth annual observance of World Pneumonia Day Nov. 12. The authors disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.

The study by Dr. Lindstrand and colleagues was published Nov. 10 in Pediatrics. This study was funded by the Stockholm County Council, Foundation Samariten, Sachs' Children's Hospital, Swedish Research Council, Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research, Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation and Sven Jerrings Foundation. Dr. Lindstrand received funding from GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer.

Review Date: 
November 7, 2014
Last Updated:
November 13, 2014