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Pneumococcal vaccination in elderly could be scrapped

The pneumococcal vaccination campaign in the elderly could be scrapped immediately, after a preliminary review concluded it had little impact on disease rates.

Government advisors concluded that while the vaccination campaign has been relatively inexpensive, it had only reduced incidence of pneumococcal disease in ‘a relatively small number of individuals'.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation's pneumococcal subgroup set out three main options – to continue with the programme, stop it some time in the future or end it immediately.

The subgroup concluded the programme ‘had made little impact on pneumococcal disease overall, as the majority of pneumococcal disease was non bacteraemic pneumonia,' minutes from a meeting in September reveal.

It was also felt the benefits of the childhood pneumococcal vaccine may ‘outweigh the possibly limited benefits of the PPV programme'.

The subgroup will review further evidence at its next meeting before deciding the programme's fate.

Professor Adam Finn, professor of paediatrics at the University of Bristol and an expert in childhood pneumococcal disease, said the sub-group was right to reassess the need for an adult campaign.

‘There's a relative lack of clear evidence that the vaccine works. There's a wide variation in opinion about the efficacy of the polysaccharide vaccine that is used in the programme.

‘Data from the US suggests a well-implemented programme in children may have a herd immunity effect in adults. This weakens the argument for the adult programme even further.'

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