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Vaccine Offers More Coverage Against Pneumococcal Disease

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

The FDA recently approved Prevnar 13 (PCV13) which is a “broader” spectrum vaccine than the currently used Prevnar 7 (PCV7).  Prevnar is a vaccine that is routinely administered at 2, 4, 6 and 12-15 months of age.


PCV7 was first approved in the U.S. in 2000 for the prevention of pneumococcal meningitis, pneumonia, and bacterial blood infections. The Prevnar 7 vaccine covered 7 different serotypes (strains) of S. pneumonia, a bacteria that also often causes otitis media (ear infections) in children. Since the introduction of PCV7 there has been a dramatic decrease in the number of invasive pneumococcal diseases seen in children,  as well as a reduction in the incidence of ear infections caused by the S. pneumonia bacteria that are due to serotypes in the vaccine.

The new PCV13 now covers an additional 6 serotypes of the bacteria which should provide even more coverage and protection against pneumococcal disease, and therefore even better protection for young children.  For many parents this will be a “non” event as the doses of PCV7 that had been used until March  are now being returned to the drug company and are being routinely replaced with PCV13 . PCV13 will ultimately replace PCV7 in the routine immunization schedule throughout the country.  The side effect profile is no different for the vaccines.

The new recommendations for PCV13 are important for those that have children who are between 12 – 15 months of age, and who have finished the 4 dose PCV7 series.  For those children, it is now recommended that those over 15 months and up to 6 years of age, receive a 5th dose of Prevnar, but with the newer PCV13. This will provide some immunity to the 6 additional serotypes in the newer vaccine and give these young children broader protection against invasive pneumococcal disease.

So the next time you see your pediatrician and you have a child over the age of 1 but under the age of 6, ask your doctor about getting a 5th dose of Prevnar, with PCV13.   I f you have an infant, I would ask your pediatrician’s office if they have started using PCV13 for routine vaccination.  The continued science involved in developing better and more protective vaccines is one more step toward preventing serious childhood illnesses.

That’s your daily dose.  We’ll chat again tomorrow.

Send your question to Dr. Sue right now!

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