3-dose 7-Valent pneumococcal vaccine use associated with increased nasopharyngeal acquisition of pneumococcal Serotype 19A Strain
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has found an association between the 7-valent pneumococcal vaccine (PCV-7) and an increase in nasopharyngeal (in the nose and throat) acquisition of pneumococcal serotype 19A strain, which is not one of the 7 strains the PCV-7 protects from. According to the authors of the study, a possible association had been observed between the use of PCV-7 vaccine and a rapid increase in serotype 19A strain acquisition, but studies had never been done to confirm this association, and the current study is the first one to address that concern. Let us look at it:
Elske J. M. van Gils, MD; Reinier H. Veenhoven, MD, PhD; Eelko Hak, PhD; Gerwin D. Rodenburg, MD; Wendy C. M. Keijzers; Debby Bogaert, MD, PhD; Krzysztof Trzcinski, DVM, PhD; Jacob P. Bruin; Loek van Alphen, PhD; Arie van der Ende, PhD; Elisabeth A. M. Sanders, MD, PhD
JAMA. 2010;304(10):1099-1106. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1290
Study Summary – The study was conducted in the Netherlands. 948 healthy infants, from 6 weeks up to 24 months of age, were enrolled, and followed between July 7, 2005, and February 14, 2008. Infants were randomly assigned to receive 2 doses of PCV-7 at 2 and 4 months; 2 + 1 doses of PCV-7 at 2, 4, and 11 months; or no dosage (unvaccinated control group). Nasopharyngeal swabs were obtained at the age of 6 weeks and at 6, 12, 18, and 24 months to test for the presence of the 19A strain of the pneumococcal bacteria. Rates of bacterial presence were compared between the different groups.
Results – 54 nasopharyngeal serotype 19A carriage isolates from 318 in the 2-dose group, 66 isolates from 327 in the 2 + 1-dose group, and 33 isolates from 303 in the unvaccinated were collected from 6 weeks through 24 months. The cumulative proportion who tested positive for new nasopharyngeal serotype 19A acquisition from 6 through 24 months of age was significantly higher in those having received the 2 + 1-dose PCV-7 schedule (16.2%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 12.6%-20.6%) vs those who were unvaccinated (9.2%; 95% CI, 6.5%-13.0%; relative risk [RR], 1.75; 95% CI, 1.14-2.70) but not after a 2-dose schedule (13.2%; 95% CI, 9.9%-17.4%; RR, 1.43; 95% CI, 0.91-2.25).
Conclusion – This study is methodologically sound. The sample size was fairly large, subjects were randomly assigned, and there was a proper control group. If the results of this study hold, and can be replicated, it would strongly suggest that a 3-dose of the PCV-7 pneumococcal vaccine might lead to higher rates of acquisition of the 19A strain in infants between 6 weeks and 24 months of age. It is very interesting that there were no statistically significant differences between the non-vaccinated children and the ones that had not received the 3rd dose yet. From the information that can be gleamed by the abstract of the study, the authors don’t seem to speculate on why it appears that the 3rd dose makes the difference. They conclude simply as such:
A 2 + 1-dose PCV-7 schedule was associated with an increase in serotype 19A nasopharyngeal acquisition compared with unvaccinated controls.
How should we interpret this study? By the author’s own admission, this is the first study to look at the association between PCV-7 and increased serotype 19A acquisition rates. As such, it is imperative that its results be replicated, to rule out mistakes, or other things that could have affected the results. On the other hand, the study looks to have been conducted well, and appears to have been designed properly. It provides intriguing evidence that 3 doses of the PCV-7 vaccine might be causally related to an increase in nasopharyngeal acquisition of pneumococcal serotype 19A Strain. More studies are needed to verify these results.
Until then, the best course of action is to speak to your pediatrician, and talk to her about using the 13, or the 23, valent version of the pneumococcal vaccine which also covers serotype 19A strains of the pneumococcal bacteria. You should not unilaterally decide to skip the pneumococcal vaccination completely based solely on this one study.