Vaccinating children younger than age 2 with the pneumococcal vaccine appears to be associated with decreased hospitalizations from pneumonia and reduced health care expenses, according to a report in the December issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
Pneumonia is the leading cause of childhood illness and death worldwide, accounting for 2 million childhood deaths per year, mainly in developing countries, according to background information in the article. In 2000, American children began receiving the 7-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV7)--which protects against pneumococcal pneumonia, caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria--as part of the routine immunization schedule. This vaccine is recommended for all children age 2 months to 23 months and children age 24 months to 59 months who are at increased risk for pneumococcal disease. The number of children age 19 to 35 months receiving three or more doses increased from 41 percent in 2002 to 83 percent in 2005.
Fangjun Zhou, Ph.D., and colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, analyzed health records from a database of approximately 40 large employers each year from 1997 to 2004. The researchers used claims data and coding from hospitals and physician visits to determine the number and cost of health care visits due to all-cause and pneumococcal pneumonia. More than 40,000 children younger than age 2 are represented in the database each year.
"Comparing the rates in 2004 with those in the baseline period of 1997 to 1999 among children younger than 2 years, hospitalizations due to all-cause pneumonia declined from 11.5 to 5.5 per 1,000 children (52.4 percent decline) and ambulatory [outpatient] visits due to all-cause pneumonia declined from 99.3 to 58.5 per 1,000 children (41.1 percent decline)," the authors write. "Rates of hospitalization due to pneumococcal pneumonia declined from 0.6 to 0.3 per 1,000 children (57.6 percent decline) and rates of ambulatory visits declined from 1.7 to 0.9 per 1,000 children (46.9 percent decline)."
"These results add to the growing evidence base of benefits of PCV7 vaccination and suggest an important role for the vaccine in reducing the burden of pneumonia and associated medical costs," the authors conclude.
(Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007;161(12):1162-1168. Available pre-embargo to the media at www.jamamedia.org.)
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