New UK recommendations for pneumococcal vaccine

15 Nov 2017
New UK recommendations for pneumococcal vaccine

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have recommended a dose of the childhood pneumococcal vaccine be removed from the routine childhood immunisation schedule in infancy. 

The pneumococcal vaccine protects against 13 strains of pneumococcal bacteria - a leading cause of bacterial meningitis. The recommendation was published today and also highlighted by Professor David Goldblatt, JCVI pneumococcal sub-committee member, at the Meningitis Research Foundation conference in London.

The JCVI are an expert group who make recommendations to government about who should receive routine vaccinations and when, with the aim of providing the best possible protection through the smallest number of vaccines given at the most effective times.

UK babies are currently given three separate injections of pneumococcal vaccine, two in infancy at two and four months of age with a booster dose at one year of age (known as a 2 + 1 schedule). It is now recommended that the schedule be amended to one dose in infancy at three months of age with a booster at one year (known as a 1 + 1 schedule). 

The JCVI recommendations can be found here: https://app.box.com/s/iddfb4ppwkmtjusir2tc/file/247634612957

The JCVI have based their recommendations on new research due to be published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases on 21st November 2017. 

The JCVI report suggests that the pneumococcal vaccine has not only successfully reduced cases of disease due to the 13 strains covered by the vaccine, but that it has also dramatically reduced the circulation of these bacteria amongst the wider population. They believe this means the risk of exposure to the strains of disease contained in the vaccine has reduced so much that removing a vaccine dose in infancy would not result in a significant increase in cases. 

"It is vital that children are immunised with the booster dose at one year of age to stop wider transmission of the disease causing bacteria.”

Vinny Smith, Chief Executive of Meningitis Research Foundation, said: “We appreciate that the evidence highlighted in the JCVI minutes suggests removing one dose of vaccine will not significantly increase cases of illness but we await the publication of the full research so that we can review it."

“The JCVI report says there would be a ‘limited effect’ from changing the number of injections. While any move to simplify vaccine schedules for families is welcomed, protection must be maintained and we are pleased that the report recommends this is kept under regular review. Public health authorities need to monitor the situation very closely and ensure mechanisms are in place to quickly respond to any changes or new evidence.”

“A reduced schedule would also make it more important than ever that people take up vaccines available to them. It is vital that children are immunised with the booster dose at one year of age to stop wider transmission of the disease causing bacteria.”

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