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Pneumococcal Vaccine - Q&A

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Who needs to be vaccinated with pneumococcal vaccines?

The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13 or Prevnar 13®) protects against 13 types of pneumococci (the bacteria that cause pneumococcal disease). It is recommended for use in infants and young children. The vaccine should be given to all infants at 2, 4, and 6 months of age, followed by a booster dose at 12 through 15 months of age. Previously unvaccinated, healthy children 24 months through 4 years of age only need to receive one dose of this vaccine. Additional doses of PCV13 may be recommended, depending on the child's age and health status. For more information, please consult the ACIP recommendations or your child's health care provider.

The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV), Pneumovax®, is a 23-valent polysaccharide vaccine that is currently recommended for use in all adults who are 65 years and older and for persons who are 2 years and older and at high risk for disease such as persons with sickle cell disease, HIV infection, or other immunocompromising conditions. It is also recommended for use in adults 19 through 64 years of age who smoke cigarettes or who have asthma and adults living in nursing homes or long-term care facilities.

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Are pneumococcal vaccines effective?

Yes. Studies done on 7-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV7), which was licensed by FDA in late 2000, showed the vaccine to be highly effective in preventing invasive pneumococcal disease in young children. The 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, also known as Prevnar 13® or PCV13, which was licensed by FDA in February 2010, will provide protection against infections caused by a greater variety of pneumococcal serotypes ("strains"). PCV13 is similar to PCV7 but includes 6 additional serotypes. This means that it will provide protection against infections caused by a greater variety of pneumococcal serotypes. Studies have shown that PCV13 causes the body's immune system to create protective antibodies, which help fight the pneumococcal bacteria, similar to PCV7. Like PCV7, PCV13 will be further studied for its effectiveness.

In a study including 37,000 infants in California, PCV7 was over 90% effective in preventing invasive disease. The children who received the vaccine also had 7% fewer episodes of otitis media and a 20% decrease in the number of tympanostomy tubes (ear tubes) placed. The vaccine was also shown to decrease the number of episodes of pneumonia.

CDC conducted a study soon after PCV7 was licensed and found that the vaccine was 96% effective against pneumococcal disease in healthy children who received one dose or more and 81% effective in children with medical conditions that put them at risk of pneumococcal disease. The vaccine was also highly effective at preventing pneumococcal disease caused by antibiotic-resistant serotypes.

Since routine vaccine introduction in the US, rates of invasive pneumococcal disease caused by the seven serotypes included in the vaccine have declined by 99%. Rates of invasive pneumococcal disease caused by some serotypes not in the PCV7 vaccine have increased since PCV7 vaccine introduction. However, these increases have been small compared to the decreases in vaccine type serotypes. Also, the main serotypes causing the increases will be covered by PCV13.

Pneumovax®, the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine that includes 23 serotypes, has been shown to be 50-85% effective in preventing invasive disease caused by those 23 serotypes in adults with healthy immune systems.

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