Pneumococcal jab cuts otitis media

The introduction of routine pneumococcal vaccination for children could cut the rate of frequent ear infections by up to a fifth, according to a US study.

Between 25 and 30 per cent of children suffer from chronic otitis media (OM), with three infections in six months or four infections in a year. Streptococcus pneumoniae is an important cause of this.

Researchers looked at the effect of routine vaccination with a heptavalent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV7) on rates of chronic otitis media and equalising tube insertions.

The study included 44,137 children born in 1998 and 1999, before PCV7 vaccination was routine, and 132,394 children born after the vaccine was introduced.

By two years of age, 29 per cent of the children born in 2000–1 had developed frequent OM. This was a fifth of the rate seen in those born in 1998–9.

Around 6 per cent of the children born in 2000–1 had pressure-equalising tubes inserted. This is a reduction of 16 and 23 per cent compared to the earlier cohorts.

Lead researcher Dr Katherine Poehling, from Vanderbilt University Medical Centre in Tennessee, said: ‘Although these results are very exciting, we need to monitor the trends in ear infections carefully because pneumococcal strains not included in the vaccine may increase and diminish these gains.’

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