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August 14, 2003

Pneumococcal Vaccine Effective for High-Risk Communities

The seven-valent conjugate pneumococcal vaccine (PnCRM7) effectively prevents infections in high-risk communities where pneumococcal disease is prevalent, according to a study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Streptococcus pneumoniae is a leading cause of bacterial infection in children and can lead to a number of serious illnesses including deadly bacterial meningitis. PnCRM7, which is sold under the brand-name Prevnar, protects children against seven types of Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria. The study was conducted among Navajo and White Mountain Apache Indian children, who have some the highest pneumococcal disease rates in the world. The findings were published on August 1, 2003, edition of The Lancet.

“We found that the vaccine was nearly 83 percent effective at preventing serious pneumococcal infections among infants who received at least one dose of the vaccine prior to seven months of age. The vaccine was 86 percent efficacious among all infants who received at least one dose of the vaccine prior to two years of age,” said Katherine O'Brien, MD, who is lead author of the study and a research professor with the School’s Center for American Indian Health. “These results are good news for other groups who are also at increased risk for pneumococcal disease, such as children in daycare and African-American children.”

The study included more than 8,000 infants and toddlers living in 38 Navajo and White Mountain Apache Indian communities. All of the children were between six weeks and two years of age. Each of the 38 communities was randomly assigned to receive either the pneumococcal vaccine or an alternative control vaccine. The communities were followed for a three year period.

“Conjugate pneumococcal vaccine provides significant public health benefit in this high-risk population and should be considered as part of routine childhood vaccination schedule in other countries or regions with high pneumococcal disease burden,” said Dr. O’Brien.

“Efficacy and safety of seven-valent conjugate pneumococcal vaccine in American Indian Children: group randomized trial,” was written by Katherine L. O’Brien, Lawrence H. Moulton, Raymond Reid, Robert Weatherholtz, Jane Oski, Laura Brown, Gaurav Kumar, Alan Parkinson, Diana Hu, Jill Hackell, Ih Chang, Robert Kohberger, George Siber and Mathuram Santosham.

Funding for the study was provided by the National Institutes of Health, Wyeth Lederle Vaccines and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Public Affairs Media Contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Tim Parsons or Kenna Brigham at 410-955-6878 or paffairs@jhsph.edu.