Pneumococcal vaccine cuts in-hospital visits by 70%

Image copyright PA Image caption Patients who receive Pfizer vaccine are also more likely to be released from hospital in 90% of cases

A new vaccine from Pfizer protects more than 70% of people against hospital admission, new research suggests.

It is the first vaccination of its kind to protect against pneumonia caused by the pneumococcal bacteria, said the study team.

Previous studies found that 7% of those who received the vaccine went into hospital, but this latest research showed it to be the case for 70% of people.

The vaccine is available to patients in the US but is yet to be licensed in the UK.

In June the UK agency for medicines licensing said it was “committed to progressing studies for a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine” but is yet to make a final decision.

Around 13,000 pneumococcal infections are reported in the UK each year, 1,900 of which are due to the type caused by the pneumococcal group C bacterium.

Findings

The new study involved 1,000 children and young adults who were randomly assigned to receive a vaccine or a placebo.

The pneumococcal vaccine protects against five such types of pneumococcal bacteria, pneumococcus, streptococcus, multi-drug-resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae, pneumococcus pyogenes and Pneumococcus suis.

As well as stopping pneumonia, the vaccine also limits blood-clotting and infection and organ damage.

The results, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, revealed a significant reduction in hospitalisations.

While 3% of children and young adults who received the placebo experienced pneumonia, only 1% of those who received the vaccine were admitted to hospital, according to the findings.

Dr José Escalante, lead researcher at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland, US, said: “We found that for the age group we studied, two doses of the vaccine produced a 71% relative protection against disease caused by the [pneumococcal] group C pathogens.

“We also found that, on average, each dose of the vaccine prevented hospitalisation by 71%.”

Pfizer has previously said that the vaccine is good for infants, but that its earlier report on its efficacy was for adults between the ages of 13 and 65.

If given to adolescents in the UK, there is expected to be high uptake with parents likely to take part in their children’s vaccination records.

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