New vaccine combats ear infections |

New vaccine combats ear infections

Each year, more than 1 million children in the United States are afflicted with middle ear infections, meningitis and pneumonia resulting in more than 100 deaths.

A new vaccine was recently approved for use in children which has been shown to prevent invasive infections such as pneumonia, bacteremia, meningitis, and upper respiratory infections like sinusitis and middle ear infections.

The new Pneumococcal 7-Valent Conjugate Vaccine targets seven strains of Streptococcus pneumoniae responsible for approximately 80 percent of invasive pneumococcal disease in children under 6 in the United States. Of these seven bacterial strains, 74 percent are not susceptible to penicillin treatment and all show a high level of penicillin resistance.

In children older than one month, Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria is the most common cause of invasive disease. If untreated, pneumococcal disease can result in hearing loss, speech delays, learning disabilities, paralysis and sometimes death.

Estimates indicate that 16,000 children under age 5 each year are infected with pneumococcal bacteremia, a serious blood infection, and 1,400 others develop pneumococcal meningitis. About half of all children afflicted with meningitis will suffer brain damage and hearing loss. About 10 percent of those infected with meningitis will die.

The vaccine is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for all children up to 24 months. It is also recommended for some children between 24 and 59 months, including African Americans, Native Americans, Alaskan Natives, children with sickle cell anemia, children with HIV or who are otherwise immunocompromised, and those children with chronic diseases.

Children in group child care situations are at increased risk of pneumococcal infection, and for this reason the vaccine is also recommended for this group aged up to 59 months.

Children who frequently suffer middle ear infections should also be given priority consideration for receiving this vaccine.

The vaccine was not developed for use against active infection, nor is it suggested for use in adults.

JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, reported in March that administration of vaccine to healthy children would annually prevent 12,000 cases of meningitis and bacteremia, 53,000 cases of pneumonia, a million cases of otitis media (middle ear infection) and 116 deaths related to the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria.

The journal reported, however, that in evaluating tangible costs, currently the vaccine is not cost-effective to society as a whole.

“To achieve cost savings,” the journal reported, “its cost would need to be lower than the manufacturer’s list price.”

The less tangible cost-effectiveness of preventing illness and death was not evaluated, however, and the journal suggested that the value of these benefits should be considered.

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