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New bivalent polio vaccine performs better than trivalent and just as well as monovalent vaccines

October 28, 2010 Leave a comment

A new study, published online at The Lancet shows that the bivalent polio vaccine, which is currently in use in India and Nigeria and offers protection against two of the polio virus strains, type 1 & 3, triggers a stronger immune response than the existing trivalent vaccine and similar immune response to the monovalent vaccines.

Immunogenicity of bivalent types 1 and 3 oral poliovirus vaccine: a randomised, double-blind, controlled trial

Dr Roland W Sutter MD a , Prof T Jacob John FRCP[E] b, Prof Hemant Jain MD c, Prof Sharad Agarkhedkar MD d, Prof Padmasini Venkat Ramanan MD e, Harish Verma MB f, Jagadish Deshpande PhD g, Ajit Pal Singh MB h, Meghana Sreevatsava MPH a, Pradeep Malankar MD a, Anthony Burton a, Arani Chatterjee MB h, Hamid Jafari MD f, R Bruce Aylward MD a

Study Summary – This was a double-blind, randomized,  controlled study which enrolled 830 babies in India, between August and December 2008. The researchers compared various oral polio vaccines’ efficacy in inducing an immune response, measured by the number of antibodies created after the doses were received (seroconversion). The total amount of antibodies was measured and compared after the first dose, and also after a second dose.

The babies were set up in 5 groups; it is not clear from the summary but it appears that each group would have received one of the following vaccines:

  • monovalent type 1
  • monovalent type 2
  • monovalent type 3
  • bivalent 1 & 3
  • trivalent.

Although it is possible that some group may have been given a combination of monovalent vaccines; I am not sure. What does mono, bi, trivalent mean? It means this: the monovalent vaccines protect against one type only of the virus that causes polio. For example, monovalent type 1 protects against the Type 1 of the polio virus. Bivalent vaccines protect against two types at the same time, and trivalent vaccine protects against 3 types at the same time.

Immune response, or seroconversion, was measured after the first dose, and after the second dose of the vaccines. The responses were compared for the various vaccines.

Results – The results were as such:

Seroconversion after Dose 1

Type 1 Virus

  • Monovalent  – 20%
  • Bivalent – 20%
  • Trivalent – 15%

Type 2 Virus

  • Monovalent – 21%
  • Bivalent – N/A
  • Trivalent – 25%

Type 3 Virus

  • Monovalent – 12%
  • Bivalent – 7%
  • Trivalent – 4%

Seroconversion after Dose 2 (cumulative)

Type 1 Virus

  • Monovalent – 90%
  • Bivalent – 86%
  • Trivalent – 63%

Type 2 Virus

  • Monovalent – 90%
  • Bivalent – N/A
  • Trivalent – 91%

Type 3 Virus

  • Monovalent – 84%
  • Bivalent – 74%
  • Trivalent – 52%

The vaccines were well tolerated. 19 serious adverse events occurred, including one death; however, these events were not attributed to the trial interventions.

Conclusion – This study shows statistically significant differences between the bivalent and the trivalent vaccine, differences that become clearer after the second dose, at which point the bivalent vaccine outscored the trivalent one by more than 20% points for both polio viruses Type 1 and 2. There are no statistically significant differences between the bivalent and monovalent vaccines.

The conclusion following the results of this study is that, in this study the bivalent vaccine worked better than the trivalent vaccine in inducing an immune response, in infants. Further, the bivalent vaccine rates of seroconversion was just as good as the monovalent vaccines ones.

It is important to keep in mind though, that this study was only measuring the immune response, and does not draw any conclusions about the reduction of polio infections, hospitalizations or death rates. If that was the goal of the study, a proper placebo control would be absolutely necessary, but given that the purpose of the study was to compare efficacy of seroconversion rates as compared to the trivalent/monovalent vaccines, the use of a placebo is not necessary, since it is logical to assume that any placebo effects would similarly affect all groups of participants.

As such this study, in and off itself, does not lead to any conclusions about the bivalent vaccine’s efficacy in preventing polio infections, hospitalizations and deaths. We may extrapolate given it’s seroconversion rates, and what it is known about the monovalent/trivalent vaccines effects on polio infections/hospitalizations/death rates, but that would be just that, an extrapolation. The only question this study directly answers is: How does the bivalent polio vaccine compare to the monovalent and trivalent polio vaccines in inducing an immune response?

The authors concluded as such:

The findings show the superiority of bOPV compared with tOPV, and the non-inferiority of bOPV compared with mOPV1 and mOPV3.

Categories: Efficacy, Polio Tags: ,

Maternal Flu Vaccination and Effect on Flu Infection in Young Infants

October 6, 2010 2 comments

A new study, published online at the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, looks at the effects of mom’s flu vaccine on young infants.

Maternal Influenza Vaccination and Effect on Influenza Virus Infection in Young Infants

Angelia A. Eick, PhD; Timothy M. Uyeki, MD, MPH, MPP; Alexander Klimov, PhD; Henrietta Hall, MS; Raymond Reid, MD; Mathuram Santosham, MD; Katherine L. O’Brien, MD, MPH

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. Published online October 4, 2010. doi:10.1001/archpediatrics.2010.192

Study Summary – The objective of this study was to assess the effect of seasonal influenza vaccination during pregnancy on laboratory-confirmed flu infections in infants up to 6 months of age. A total of 1160 mother-infant pairs were included in the study. The women gave birth during the regular flu season. Some of them received the flu vaccine, some didn’t. The assignment to either receive the flu vaccine or not was not random. The study authors looked at actual lab-confirmed influenza illnesses (ILI), and ILI hospitalization rates of the infants as the main outcomes. They compared ILI confirmed rates, and ILI hospitalization rates between the infants born to vaccinated mother and infants born to unvaccinated mothers.

Results – Infants born to vaccinated mothers were less likely than infants born to unvaccinated mothers to contract ILI. Specifically:

  • 41% reduction in the risk of laboratory-confirmed influenza virus infection (relative risk, 0.59; 95% confidence interval, 0.37-0.93)
  • 39% reduction in the risk of ILI hospitalization (relative risk, 0.61; 95% confidence interval, 0.45-0.84)
  • Significantly higher hemagglutinin inhibition antibody levels at birth and at 2 to 3 months of age

Conclusion – Methodologically, the main design issue is that test subjects were not assigned randomly to either the vaccine or no-vaccine. Furthermore, it appears from the abstract at least, that the mothers in the no-vaccine group did nor receive a placebo shot. The implication is that they simply did not receive a shot and were aware of it, which would affect the blinding as well.

When taken together these two facts should lower our reliance on the results, although not negate it entirely. The differences of 41% and 39% are too big to be due simply to bias introduced by these design issues. So the conclusion should be that given the large sample size and the large differences between the two groups, this study is highly indicative that babies born to vaccinated mothers do receive a tangible benefit from the vaccine, but the actual reduction in infection and hospitalization rates may be a little less than the numbers reported in this study. These conclusions should be compared to other studies, hopefully studies that had better blinding and randomization.

The author’s own conclusion is as such;

Maternal influenza vaccination was significantly associated with reduced risk of influenza virus infection and hospitalization for an ILI up to 6 months of age and increased influenza antibody titers in infants through 2 to 3 months of age.

Reduction in Gastroenteritis With the Use of Pentavalent Rotavirus Vaccine in a Primary Practice

October 2, 2010 1 comment

I have previously looked at studies that looked at acute gastroenteritis (AGE) rates of hospitalizations before and after the introduction of the pentavalent rotavirus vaccine (RV5). Those studies noted a significant reduction in AGE hospitalization rates following the introduction of the RV5 in 2006. In this entry, I will summarize yet another study along the same lines.

AGE, commonly referred to as the “stomach flu“,  is a viral infection, and rotavirus is the leading cause of severe gastroenteritis in children, credited with causing about 50% of acute gastroenteritis hospitalizations during January-June among U.S. children. Logically, if rotavirus causes it, and if an effective vaccine is introduced, we ought to observe statistically significant decreases in gastroenteritis hospitalization rates, and this is what this analysis was set up to do.

The study we will look at today, was published in the journal Pediatrics and the abstract can be accessed by clicking the link below.

Reduction in Gastroenteritis With the Use of Pentavalent Rotavirus Vaccine in a Primary Practice

Rodolfo E. Bégué, MDa, Keith Perrin, MDb

Study SummaryThe authors followed up children under 5 years of age, who presented with AGE in a large pediatrics practice in New Orleans, between 2004 and 2009. Primary care physician office visits, emergency department visits, and hospital admissions were identified by review of records. RV testing was performed only on those who were seen at the hospital. Overall, about 16,000 children were included in this study.

Results – For 2006–2007, 2007–2008, and 2008–2009, 11.1%, 40.3%, and 45.6% of age-eligible children, respectively, received 1 dose of RV5.  As compared with 2004–2005 (before RV5), in 2007–2009, there was a significant decrease in all-cause AGE office visits (23%) and hospitalizations (50%). RV-positive cases (emergency department visits or hospitalizations) decreased by 67%. The decrease in RV-positive cases was more evident among children who were younger than 2 years (81%), with a strong trend among those who were aged 2 to <5 years (41%).

Conclusion – This study adds more evidence that the introduction of the pentavalent rotavirus vaccine led to a significant decrease in all-cause AGE hospitalizations, and especially rotavirus-caused AGE. Taken together with the previous 3 studies we’ve reviewed, the evidence seems very solid and is strongly suggestive of a correlation between the introduction of RV5 in 2006, and significant decreases in AGE hospitalizations. The authors of the above study concluded as such:

Increased use of RV5 in a pediatric practice was associated with fewer AGE office visits and hospitalizations. The reduction was specific for RV-positive AGE and seen among children who were targeted for immunization as well as older groups, suggesting a herd-immunity effect.

Vaccine Safety & Efficacy-Flu vaccine

August 29, 2010 4 comments

Today we will look at a study about the efficacy and safety of the flu vaccine in infants. The study was published in The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal in February 2010.

Safety and immunogenicity of trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine in infants: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study.

Englund JA, Walter E, Black S, Blatter M, Nyberg J, Ruben FL, Decker MD; GRC28 Study Team.

Study Summary- This was a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, conducted in 1375 healthy US infants 6 to 12 weeks of age. Subjects received 2 doses of trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine (TIV, Fluzone, Sanofi Pasteur; N = 915) or placebo (N = 460) 1 month apart in combination with indicated concomitant vaccines. Solicited adverse events were collected for 7 days following vaccination, and unsolicited adverse events for 28 days. Antibodies to all 3 vaccine strains were measured following the second TIV/placebo dose.

Results – No significant differences were seen between TIV and placebo groups for any safety outcome. Fever > or =38 degrees C within 3 days of vaccination was seen in 11.2% versus 11.7% of TIV versus placebo recipients. Serious adverse events within 28 days were reported in 1.9% of TIV and 1.5% of placebo recipients. Antibody responses to childhood vaccines were similar in both groups. Increased influenza-specific antibody responses in TIV recipients compared with placebo recipients were seen against all 3 strains in TIV recipients, with better responses to influenza A strains noted. Reciprocal geometrical mean titer to H1N1, H3N2, and B were 33, 95, and 11 in TIV recipients versus 7, 9, and 5 for placebo recipients.

Conclusion – This study fulfills all the basic requirements for a well designed scientific study. The sample was large (1,375 participants); it was double-blind, randomized and placebo controlled. This study showed that the trivalent, inactivated flu vaccine was just as safe as the placebo and highly more efficient than placebo in inducing antibody response to all three strains of the virus. The authors concluded as such:

TIV administered to young infants beginning at 6 to 12 weeks of age is safe and immunogenic.

Rotavirus vaccine shown to be effective in preventing gastroenteritis in 2 new studies in Asian and African populations

August 10, 2010 3 comments

Two new studies, published online in The Lancet (the full text can be accessed here and here; free registration to The Lancet required), have produced similar results to the results of a similar US study on which I reported here at Vaccine Central which showed the RotaTeq pentavalent rotavirus vaccine to be 45% in reducing all cause gastroenteritis hospitalization rates, an excellent track record given that the rotavirus is credited with causing up to 50% of all cause gastroenteritis hospitalizations in children. At that time, I concluded that although the study showed a strong correlation between the introduction of the vaccine and the reduction in AGE hospitalization rates, given that we only had 2 data points, we couldn’t make a direct causation link between the two events, and that further evidence was needed in order to reach that conclusion.

That further evidence has been provided by the above-mentioned 2 studies. I will summarize each study separately.

ASIAN STUDY

Efficacy of pentavalent rotavirus vaccine against severe rotavirus gastroenteritis in infants in developing countries in Asia: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial

K Zaman, Dang Duc Anh, John C Victor, Sunheang Shin, Md Yunus, Michael J Dallas, Goutam Podder, Vu Dinh Thiem, Le Thi Phuong Mai,Stephen P Luby, Le Huu Tho, Michele L Coia, Kristen Lewis, Stephen B Rivers, David A Sack, Florian Schödel, A Duncan Steele, Kathleen M Neuzil,Max Ciarlet

Study Summary-This was a multicentre, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, undertaken in rural Matlab, Bangladesh (2 year observation period), and urban and periurban Nha Trang, Vietnam (One and a half years observation period). Infants aged 4–12 weeks without symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders were randomly assigned (1:1) to receive three oral doses of pentavalent rotavirus vaccine 2 mL or placebo at around 6 weeks, 10 weeks, and 14 weeks of age. Infants who received vaccine or placebo were visited once a month to remind parents to bring their child to a clinic or hospital if their child developed symptoms of gastroenteritis. Any adverse reactions occurring within 14 days of receipt of each dose (both vaccine and placebo) were recorded.

To assess immune responses to vaccination, a small amount of venous blood was obtained immediately before the first dose of study vaccine or placebo was given and about 14 days after the third dose was given in a subset of around 300 participants (around 150 per site).

The primary outcome was severe rotavirus gastroenteritis, irrespective of serotype, occurring 14 days or more after the third dose of vaccine or placebo until end of study. Secondary outcomes were efficacy of vaccination against rotavirus gastroenteritis of any severity, proportion of participants with a serious adverse event within 14 days of any dose, and the proportion of participants with seroresponse for antirotavirus IgA.

Results – Overall, the vaccine had a success rate of 48.3% in preventing severe rotavirus gastroenteritis (RVGE), 42.5 % reduction in any severity RVGE, and 27% in severe GE of any cause. Seroresponse, rotavirus antibodies present in the blood stream, was significantly  higher in the vaccinated groups (87.8%) than the placebo group (18.2%).  Serious side effects within 14 days of any dose were virtually the same for both the vaccine and the placebo group (Table 5).

Conclusion – The study is methodologically sound. It is randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled. The results strongly suggest that the pentavalent rotavirus vaccine reduces both RVGE and all cause GE rates, by about 48% and 27% respectively, while being safe and inducing a strong immune system response in the participants. Side effects for the vaccinated children were comparable to those of the children in the control group.

Conflicts of Interest – The study was designed and run by Merck, one of the vaccine makers, with input from World Health Organization staff and site investigators. Here is the complete “Role of funding source” section from the study:

The study was designed by Merck investigators, with substantial input from PATH staff and site investigators. Merck had direct oversight or participation in every stage of the study. Merck also participated in pharmacovigilance, organised and led the data and safety monitoring board meetings, and did the data analysis. Staff from PATH independently monitored study execution at sites and participated in pharmacovigilence, data analysis, and data and safety monitoring board meetings. All authors had full access to the data, and the corresponding author had final responsibility for the decision to submit for publication.


AFRICAN STUDY


Effi cacy of pentavalent rotavirus vaccine against severe rotavirus gastroenteritis in infants in developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa: a randomised, double-blind,
placebo-controlled trial

George E Armah, Samba O Sow, Robert F Breiman, Michael J Dallas, Milagritos D Tapia, Daniel R Feikin, Fred N Binka, A Duncan Steele, Kayla F Laserson, Nana A Ansah, Myron M Levine, Kristen Lewis, Michele L Coia, Margaret Attah-Poku, Joel Ojwando, Stephen B Rivers, John C Victor, Geoff rey Nyambane, Abraham Hodgson, Florian Schödel, Max Ciarlet, Kathleen M Neuzil

Study Summary – The design of this study is identical to that of the Asian study. The only difference is the number of children; the African study enrolled about twice as many subjects. 5468 infants, in Ghana, Kenya and Mali, were randomly assigned to receive pentavalent rotavirus vaccine (n=2733) or placebo (n=2735) with an observation period of 23 months. Immune responses to vaccination were assessed in a subset of around 450 participants (around 150 per site). Primary and secondary outcomes were identical to the Asian study.

Results – Overall, the vaccine had a success rate of 39.3% in preventing severe rotavirus gastroenteritis (RVGE), 30.5 % reduction in any severity RVGE, and 10.6% in severe GE of any cause. Seroresponse, rotavirus antibodies present in the blood stream, was significantly  higher in the vaccinated groups (78.3%) than the placebo group (20.1%).  Serious side effects within 14 days of any dose were virtually the same for both the vaccine and the placebo group (Table 5).

Conclusion – The study is methodologically sound. It is randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled. The results strongly suggest that the pentavalent rotavirus vaccine reduces both RVGE and all cause GE rates, by about 30.5% and 10.6% respectively, while being safe and inducing a strong immune system response in the participants. Side effects for the vaccinated children were comparable to those of the children in the control group.

Conflicts of Interest – The study was designed and run by Merck, one of the vaccine makers, with input from World Health Organization staff and site investigators. Here is the complete “Role of funding source” section from the study:

The study was designed by scientists from Merck, with substantial input from PATH staff and site investigators. Merck had direct oversight or participation in every stage
of the study. Merck also participated in pharmacovigilance, organised and led the data and safety monitoring board meetings, and did the data analysis. Staff from PATH
independently monitored study execution at sites and participated in pharmaco vigilance, data analysis, and data and safety monitoring board meetings. All authors had full access to the data, and the corresponding author had final responsibility for the decision to submit for publication.

Where do these 3 studies leave us?

It is important to note, that while all 3 studies (US, Asia and Africa) point to the same direction, and all three show that the pentavalent rotavirus vaccine does have a substantial effect in reducing all cause gastroenteritis cases, the actual effect size of the vaccine seems to vary considerably from region to region. The US study reported a 45% decrease in all cause AGE hospitalization rates; the Asian study reported a 27% decrease while the African study reported a 10.6% decrease. The authors have picked up on this as  well and have included this issue in their discussion. For example, this is what they say in the African study:

Although the efficacy noted in this trial and the accompanying study in Asia were significant, both estimates of efficacy were lower than that reported with pentavalent rotavirus vaccine in developed countries or in developing countries in Latin America. Direct comparisons of results from previous studies of pentavalent rotavirus vaccine are limited by differences in study design, collection procedures, and clinical scoring systems. However, the comparatively low efficacy noted in this study is consistent with the low efficacy with another rotavirus vaccine reported in Africa compared with more developed countries, and with the low efficacy reported in low-income populations with other orally administered vaccines. The immunogenicity of pentavalent rotavirus vaccine in our study population was substantially lower than were results obtained in more developed countries.

So why this variation? It’s hard to say, it does not seem clear to me from these studies at least, why there would be such variation. As far as the US study is concerned, part of the answer may have to do with the fact that it was a retrospective study, comparing rates before vaccination with rates after vaccination, thus lacking a proper control group which the Asian and African studies had. On the other hand geography seems to have an important effect, as even within the Asian group there were some considerable differences between the two countries.

Nevertheless, while these issues may need more time to be sorted out, the take-home message is a very encouraging one: the pentavalent rotavirus vaccine seems to have a considerable positive effect in reducing all cause gastroenteritis rates in infants, while being safe. And given that there are an estimated 527,000 rotavirus deaths worldwide per year, even if the true effect turns out to be the lowest value of the three, the 10.6%, we are still talking about roughly 56,000 lives saved per year, with basically next to zero side effects from the vaccine.

Categories: Efficacy, Rotavirus

Vaccine efficacy – Rotavirus vaccine RotaTeq (RV5)

May 13, 2010 6 comments

A new analysis, published online by The Journal of Infectious Diseases, takes a look at acute gastroenteritis hospitalization (AGE) rates among US children under 5 years old, before and after the introduction of the first Rotavirus vaccine, RotaTeq (RV5) in early 2006. The objective of this analysis was to see if there was any change in gastroenteritis hospitalization rates after the vaccine was licensed for use among infants in the United States. The study I am referring to is this one:

Reduction in Acute Gastroenteritis Hospitalizations among US Children After Introduction of Rotavirus Vaccine: Analysis of Hospital Discharge Data from 18 US States

Aaron T. Curns, Claudia A. Steiner,  Marguerite Barrett,  Katherine Hunter,  Emily Wilson, and Umesh D. Parashar

The Journal of Infectious Diseases 2010;201:1617–1624 © 2010 by the Infectious Diseases Society of America. All rights reserved.

Why did they look at gastroenteritis hospitalization rates? Because that disease, commonly referred to as the “stomach flu“,  is a viral infection, and rotavirus is the leading cause of severe gastroenteritis in children, credited with causing about 50% of acute gastroenteritis hospitalizations during January-June amoung U.S. children. Logically, if rotavirus causes it, and if an effective vaccine is introduced, we ought to observe statistically significant decreases in gastroenteritis hospitalization rates, and this is what this analysis was set up to do.

Study Summary -The authors gathered approximately 100% complete  AGE hospitalization rates for children under 5 years of age, from 18 states, accounting for 49% of the U.S. under 5 children population. Median AGE hospitalization rates from the pre-vaccine years of 2000-2006 were compared with median AGE hospitalization rates from 2007, the first year after the vaccine, and 2008.

Results – Overall AGE hospitalization rates went down by 16% in 2007 and decreased by 45% in 2008. By age group, the reductions line up like this:

  • 0-2  months      – 28%
  • 3-5  months      – 42%
  • 6-23 months    –  50%
  • 24-59 months  – 45%

Prior to RV5 introduction, children in the 6-11 month age group had the highest hospitalization rates; after vaccine introduction children in the 0-2 month age group had the highest hospitalization rates, and showed the lowest decreases. Given that the first dose of the vaccine is given at 2 months of age, this result is to be expected.

All states experienced reduced rates of hospitalization with the exception of two: Arizona and Nevada which experienced increases of 17.1% and 12.9% respectively, prompting the study authors to note that :

It is noteworthy that 2 participating states, Arizona and Nevada, had 2008 rotavirus seasons that were similar to those in prior seasons. As data become available, it will be of interest to evaluate whether these 2 states had different patterns of RV5 coverage that could explain their distinct 2008 rotavirus seasons.

How should we interpret this analysis? Well, as alwasy the rule of thumb is that one study never proves anything. However, this study does provide strong evidence for a correlation between the RV5 vaccine and lower AGE hospitalization rates. We have to be careful though to remember that correlation does not necessarily imply causation. Given that the post-vaccine data is only for two years,  the conclusion that the introduction of the rotavirus vaccine lowered AGE hospitalization rates seems unwarranted at this point. It will be interesting to see if these results hold up 2, 5, 10 years down the road.

Nevertheless, the fact that rotavirus is responsible for 50% of AGE hospitalizations, and the fact that the reductions were more pronounced in the age groups that received vaccines, as compared to the 0-2 month olds who do not, suggests a correlation to some degree. Furthermore, while there is year-to-year variability in AGE hospitalization rates, the 2008 reduction “well exceeded the range of this variability” further suggesting an effect other than regular variability.  Lastly, the “consistency of the decrease in acute gastroenteritis hospitalization rates across most states and specifically during the rotavirus season strongly support that these changes resulted from the RV5 vaccination, but  the lack of timely national data on RV5 coverage precluded correlation of the decreases with vaccine uptake.” (emphasis added)

Conclusion – This analysis provides good evidence for an association between the introduction of the RV5 vaccine and a considerable reduction in AGE hospitalization rates, especially for 2008. It also provides strong evidence that there may be a correlation between the two, however the lack of nationals RV5 coverage data, and the fact that the post vaccine years provide only 2 data points, preclude us from concluding that the decreases are due to the vaccine. Only further confirmatory studies down the road can provide that additional support that would be needed to conclusively say that the rotavirus vaccine has had a direct effect in reducing AGE hospitalization rates. Until then, we must stick with the strong suggestion that it does.

Categories: Efficacy, Efficacy, Rotavirus Tags:

Vaccine efficacy – Pneumococcal

May 8, 2010 2 comments

Are vaccines effective? That is another question that worried parents often ask. Do we know for sure that these vaccines do what they are supposed to do? Well, as I’ve said before, that question is very broad, so we will try to break it down into manageable bits. This entry will look and see if we can find any evidence for the efficacy of the pneumococcal vaccine in preventing pneumonia and pneumonia deaths. As usual, PubMed makes for an excellent start. A quick search there brings up this interesting study.

Efficacy of 23-valent pneumococcal vaccine in preventing pneumonia and improving survival in nursing home residents: double blind, randomised and placebo controlled trial.  Maruyama T, Taguchi O, Niederman MS, Morser J, Kobayashi H, Kobayashi T, D’Alessandro-Gabazza C, Nakayama S, Nishikubo K, Noguchi T, Takei Y, Gabazza EC.  Department of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Mie University Graduate School of Medicine, Tsu City, Mie Prefecture, Japan. BMJ. 2010 Mar 8;340:c1004. doi: 10.1136/bmj.c1004.

Study Summary – The study was set up to examine the efficacy of the pneumococcal vaccine in preventing pneumonia and/or reducing pneumonia-related deaths. There were a total of 1006 participants from nursing homes in Japan. They were randomly split into two virtually equal groups (in size); one group received the vaccine, the other a placebo.  The study was double-blind, meaning that non only did the participants not know if they were on the vaccine or placebo, but those administering the doses did not know either.  The results showed a 39.32%  decrease in all-cause pneumonia infections between the placebo and the vaccinated group (form 20.6% in the placebo group to 12.5% in the vaccine group). As far as pneumococcal pneumonia rates were concerned, it also showed a decrease, this time of 61.64%. Furthermore, no deaths occurred amongst those in the vaccinated group that developed pneumococcal  pneumonia, whereas the placebo group had  a death rate of 35.1%. However, death rate from ALL CAUSE pneumonia did not differ between the two groups. The study’s conclusion was as such:

CONCLUSION: The 23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine prevented pneumococcal pneumonia and reduced mortality from pneumococcal pneumonia in nursing home residents

So how should we interpret this study? I interpret it like this: the pneumococcal vaccine was significantly effective (as compared to placebo) in preventing both infections and deaths by pneumococcal pneumonia. The vaccine appears to be highly effective for the age group the study investigated. It also significantly decreases all-cause pneumonia infections, but appears to have no effect in death rates for all-cause pneumonia.