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Combination drugs more effective

Introducing pneumococcal vaccination for all children in the UK could save the NHS millions by reducing the number of ear infections and cases of pneumonia, according to a new study.

For children under two, the vaccine would reduce visits to doctors for treatment of pneumonia by 3 per cent and otitis media by 10 per cent, according to US research.

The study, published in the September edition of Paediatrics, estimated cost savings of $530 million (£370 million) each year for ear infection treatment alone, which the authors said made a powerful case for introducing the costly vaccine.

Study author Dr Katherine Poehling, of Vanderbilt University Medical Centre in Nashville, said that the seven-valent pneumococcal vaccine would be significantly cost-

effective as it would 'reduce emergency department and outpatient visits'.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recently recommended a two-dose schedule for infant pneumococcal vaccination, but the Department of Health had been reluctant to move because of the perceived expense and the continued negative publicity over the immunisation schedule.

Dr Nicol Black, district immunisation co-ordinator for Newcastle, criticised the delay, saying: 'To introduce a new vaccine is moving against the tide and there's an inhibitory cost, but the efficacy of the pneumococcal vaccine is prov-en across the board and it ought to be introduced now.'

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