Success Story for the Pneumonia Vaccine

Pneumococcal vaccine for pneumonia leads to decreasing hospitalization rates

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) The goal of developing new vaccines is to decrease the cases of certain illnesses. The vaccine for pneumonia appears to have done just that.

A recent study found that hospitalizations for pneumonia-like illnesses have decreased since a vaccine called PCV7 was introduced in 2000.

The PCV7 vaccine protects against certain bacteria that can cause pneumonia and other related conditions.

Since the vaccine was introduced, hospitalizations for conditions caused by this bacteria have gone down by 168,000 cases a year.

"Ask your doctor about the pneumococcal vaccine."

This study, led by Marie R. Griffin, MD, MPH, of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, looked at whether hospitalization rates for pneumonia continued to stay low after a vaccine for pneumonia was introduced.

The vaccine is called the "7-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine," or PCV7, because it protects against seven types of pneumococcal bacteria.

Pneumococcal infections can cause pneumonia, ear infections, meningitis and bacterial bloodstream infections.

Sometimes, when a vaccine protects against some, but not all, types of a bacteria, the other types not included in the vaccine become more common.

The researchers wanted to know if this could have happened after the PCV7 was introduced in 2000.

The researchers used a national database to estimate hospitalization rates for patients with pneumonia-like illnesses, organized by age groups.

They compared the hospitalization rates from 1997 through 1999 (before the vaccine was introduced) to rates from 2007 through 2009 (well after it was introduced).

Between these time periods, the rate for pneumonia-related hospitalizations among children under age 2 went down by 551 cases per 100,000 children, the researchers found.

That means 47,000 fewer children under age 2 were hospitalized for pneumonia-related illnesses each year since the vaccine was introduced.

Among adults aged 85 and older, the hospitalization rate for pneumonia went down 1,300 cases per 100,000 individuals.

This decrease means 73,000 fewer seniors were hospitalized each year for pneumonia after the vaccine was introduced.

Among younger seniors, aged 75 to 84, the rate went down 360 cases per 100,000 seniors annually.

For adults aged 65 to 74, pneumonia-related hospitalizations decreased by 85 cases a year out of every 100,000 people in this age group.

The smallest decrease was seen among adults aged 18 to 39. The hospitalization rate for pneumonia in this age group decreased only 8 cases per 100,000 a year.

Overall, across all age groups, the researchers found that 168,000 fewer people are being hospitalized each year now that the PCV7 vaccine is available.

So far, this means that other types of the pneumococcal bacteria do not appear to be increasing and causing more illnesses.

This study was published July 11 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The research was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Thrasher Research Fund.

One author has received consulting fees from GlaxoSmithKline. This author and another have also received research grants from their universities that came from Pfizer. No other potential conflicts of interest were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 10, 2013
Last Updated:
July 30, 2013