Pneumococcal jab causes rise in novel strains

The pneumococcal vaccine recently introduced into the child immunisation programme by the DoH can lead to an outbreak of novel strains of the bacteria, data from the US suggests.

Routine vaccination with hep-tavalent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV7) was intro- duced in Alaska in 2001. Surveillance has shown that from 2001 to 2003, invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) among native Alaskan children under two years old fell by 67 per cent, to 134 per 100,000 per year.

But, in the period 2004/6, the rate of IPD cases had risen again to 245 per 100,000 per year.

Most of this increase appeared to be caused by pneumococcal strains not covered by PCV7. Compared with the pre-vaccine period, the rate of IPD caused by non-PCV7 rose by 140 per cent in 2004/6.

From September last year, routine pneumococcal vaccines for children under two were introduced in England and Wales.

Professor Brent Taylor, an ex-pert in community child health at University College of London Hospitals, said: ‘This has always been a concern. It’s what we’d expect, but I’m sorry to see it.

‘We do have a very active sur-veillance programme in place in the UK and, as far as I understand, we haven’t seen any movement of [pneumococcal] bugs into the vacuum left by the previous bugs.’

Dr Peter Stott, a GP with an interest in flu who practises in Tadworth, Surrey, said: ‘Before we assess whether there’s a problem, we need to look at the new strains’ virulence.’

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