Pneumococcal vaccination has been funded for almost a decade for all Australian children and adults aged 65 years and over, as well as people at increased risk of invasive pneumococcal disease. In that time, new conjugate vaccines have been introduced and the epidemiology of pneumococcal disease has changed. What is the latest on pneumococcus and pneumococcal vaccination?
In 2005, the WHO estimated that 1.6 million people die of pneumococcal disease every year, including 0.7 to one million children under 5 years of age. Pneumococcal vaccination has been shown to reduce infections with vaccine serotypes by 97%. However, vaccine development is a particular challenge because of the organism’s polysaccharide capsule, which protects it from the primary immune response and is responsible for the large number (90-plus) of serotypes. Further, since the introduction of widespread vaccination, there is evidence that vaccine serotypes are being replaced among carriers by nonvaccine serotypes. This article describes pneumococcal disease, the pneumococcal vaccines used in Australia, the rationale for their use and future challenges in this ongoing battle.
Picture credit: © Molly Borman Biomedical Illustrations, Inc.