New vaccine could mean fewer childhood ear infections
November 4, 1999
Web posted at: 2:06 p.m. EST (1906 GMT)
From Medical Correspondent Rhonda Rowland
(CNN) -- In what researchers say may be the decade's most important health advance for children, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel is expected to approve a new type of vaccine proven to fight deadly infections that often start as simple ear infections.
The FDA advisory committee is expected to recommend approval of the pneumococcal vaccine this week. The vaccine protects children from a type of bacteria that leads to pneumococcal disease, the most common cause of ear infections in children.
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While the vaccine does not protect against all ear infections, studies show it reduced the occurrence of infections.
If approved, it would be given by injection at two, four and six months of age, with booster shots at a year and 15 months.
In clinical studies children who received the vaccine were 22 percent less likely to have frequent bouts of ear infections and 20 percent less likely to need ear tube surgery.
Most parents don't realize pneumococcal disease can also cause meningitis, an inflammation of the tissue and fluid surrounding the brain and spinal canal, and bacteremia, a severe blood stream infection. The vaccine is 100 percent effective against these two rare conditions.
Although the vaccine would be a major advance, it is not perfect. There are over 80 types of pneumococcus and this vaccine covers only seven.
"But those seven types are responsible for about 85 percent of severe diseases and about 65 percent of middle ear infections, so it will help enormously, but it's not going to eliminate all pneumococcal infections," said Dr. Margaret Rennells of the University of Maryland Medical Center.
If the vaccine is approved by the FDA, as expected, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is likely to recommend it for use in all healthy children. It would be given to infants and toddlers during their routine vaccinations and would be available to children up to age five.
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