Approximately 80% of children three years of age and younger are affected by otitis media, with treatment costs estimated at more than $5 billion per year. The affliction is painful for children and frustrating and costly for parents. The introduction of the heptavalent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine in 2000 caused a reduction in the number of ear infections caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria. New research shows that the effect of this vaccine on reduction of serious pediatric ear infections and the need for insertion of ventilating ear tubes may be even greater than anticipated.
Explore this issue:August 2007
The Heptavalent Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine
S. pneumoniae is the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in the United States. It also causes other serious problems such as blood infections, pneumonia, and ear infections. Up to one-third of ear infections are believed to be caused by the S. pneumoniae bacteria.
The heptavalent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV7), which was licensed in the United States in February 2000, is marketed by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals as Prevnar. In June 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that all children aged 23 months and younger receive the PCV7 vaccine. That same month, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued its own recommendation that mimicked that of the CDC. Both agencies further recommended that children between 24 and 59 months of age who were determined to be at especially high risk should also be vaccinated. This includes children who have illnesses or take medications that affect the immune system or who have chronic heart or lung disease.