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Pneumococcal infection rates make routine vaccine likely

The Government's vaccine advisers are poised to recommend adding the new conjugate pneumococcal vaccine to the childhood immunisation schedule after a study showed carriage rates were 'higher than expected'.

Around half of children aged up to three were found to carry the pneumococcal infection, according to research by the Health Protection Agency.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said it would not make a decision until it had scrutinised the new data. The committee has requested heightened surveillance of pneumococcal disease by the agency to underpin any change in policy.

Dr David Goldblatt, a JCVI member who worked on the study, said pneumococci carriage rates in families were higher than expected. But Dr Goldblatt, senior lecturer at the Institute of Child Health, added: 'Carriage rates do not equate with pneumococcal disease.'

The researchers took monthly swabs from 132 families with a pre-school child.

The results, presented to the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health meeting in York earlier this month, showed 56 per cent of children under one year carried the infection. The rate of infection declined, falling to 37 per cent in children aged

three to five.

A second study has shown introducing the new seven-

valent conjugate pneumococcal vaccine into the childhood schedule could prevent 54,384 cases of pneumococcal disease and 29 deaths each year. The NHS cost per life-year gained would be £31,512, said a report to be published in Vaccine.

JCVI chair Professor Michael Langman said the committee would study any significant new data on pneumococcal vaccine.

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