Two pneumococcal jabs 'may suffice'

Pneumonia - Researchers say reducing vaccinations may increase rate of uptake.

Just two doses of the pneumococcal vaccine appear to offer the same protection against pneumonia and other infections as the recommended three dose schedule, Dutch research suggests.

In the UK, a pneumococcal vaccination programme for children under the age of two was launched in September 2006. Currently, children receive the jab at the ages of two months, four months and 13 months.

But increasingly crowded infant vaccine schedules have caused difficulties. Reducing the number of jabs from three to two could also boost uptake rates, as parents may be more likely to bring their child forward for vaccination, the researchers suggest.

This latest study is the first to investigate whether giving two instead of three doses of the pneumococcal vaccine could be as effective at offering protection against infection.

A total of 1,003 healthy newborns were randomly assigned to receive either two doses of the pneumococcal seven-valent vaccine at two and four months or three doses with the extra jab coming at 11 months.

A control group, given no doses of the vaccine, was also included in the study.

The infants were then followed up over 24 months for any signs of otitis media and pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses.

This was done by taking nasopharyngeal swabs at the ages of 12 and 24 months.

Overall, the researchers found the infants who were vaccinated were better protected against pneumococcal disease than infants who were not vaccinated.

When the researchers compared the two-dose and three-dose schedules, they found that both significantly reduced the risk of vaccine serotype pneumococcal carriage in children.

The researchers, led by Dr Elske Van Gils, from the University Medical Centre in Utrecht, in the Netherlands, concluded that the study supports future implementation of reduced dose pneumococcal schedules.

They add, however, that further studies should be carried out to confirm these findings.

sanjay.tanday@haymarket.com

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