The seven-strain pneumonia vaccine used in the US since 2000 has been effective in decreasing infections caused by strep pneumonia. We routinely give this Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine at 2, 4, and 6 months with a booster at age 12 to 15 months. It is estimated that 73,000 hospitalizations annually have been prevented by the vaccine.
One important patient population that has benefited has been children under two years of age. Pneumonia hospitalizations are estimated to be down 43% after vaccine introduction. This number only reflects pneumonia reductions. The vaccine is also preventing ear infections and clinic visits for illness.
Another patient population that has been greatly affected has been those 75 years and older. It’s estimated that 12,000 deaths were prevented annually since this vaccine was released. The greatest decrease in deaths was among those aged 75 and older. We know that pneumonia is fatal for 7 to 12% who contract pneumonia. Adults did not receive this vaccine, so this benefit was a demonstration of “herd immunity.” When one member gets vaccinated it can help others avoid infection.
More good news is that in 2010 the vaccine make-up was changed to include 13 strains of pneumonia. It is postulated that this will further cause a big decline in pneumonia related infections.
Way to go, vaccine-makers!