The number of children admitted to English hospitals with bacterial pneumonia decreased by a fifth in the two years following the introduction of a vaccine to combat the disease, according to a new study published today in the journal Thorax.
Bacterial pneumonia is a serious illness caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria that mostly affects babies, young children and elderly people. In Europe, around one in ten deaths in the under-fives is caused by the disease.
Bacterial pneumonia usually develops as a complication following a respiratory tract infection such as influenza. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, wheezing, fever and loss of appetite.
In September 2006, a vaccine known as PCV7 was introduced into the childhood primary immunisation programme across the UK, to protect against seven different strains of Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria.
Today's study, led by researchers from Imperial College London, shows that in the first two years following the introduction of this vaccine, hospital admissions for bacterial pneumonia decreased by 19 per cent amongst children aged under 15 years. Admissions for empyema, a rare and serious complication of bacterial pneumonia, decreased by 22 per cent.
The pneumococcal vaccine is administered at two, three and 13 months of age. When it was first introduced there was a catch-up campaign for children up to two years. Take-up of the vaccine over the study period was high. It was administered to an average of 84 per cent of eligible children in England in the first year following its introduction and 91 per cent the following year.
Dr Sonia Saxena, who led the study from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London and works as a GP in South London, said: "It's a frightening experience for everyone involved when your child becomes unwell and very disruptive to families if they need to be admitted to hospital, so we're really pleased
|Contact: Sam Wong|
Imperial College London