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The incidence of pneumonia among seniors has dropped significantly, possibly due to the introduction of a pneumonia vaccine for children. The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV-7) was licensed for use in infants and young children in March 2000, and since then, use of the vaccine has been shown to affect transmission of the disease in the community. Declines in incidences of pneumonia were noticed as early as 1 year after PCV-7 was introduced.
Researchers at the Minnesota Department of Health conducted a study to determine whether the early decline among seniors has continued in the 4 years since PCV-7 was licensed. The study included data of invasive pneumococcal disease in 8 US geographical areas from 1998 to 2003. The researchers found that the incidence of disease among adults aged 50 years and older dropped 28%, from 40.8 cases per 100,000 to 29.4. During 2002 and 2003, the overall rate of disease among patients aged 65 years and older was lower than the Healthy People 2010 goal of 42 cases/100,000. Among adults aged 50 years and older, incidence of disease caused by the 7 serotypes declined by 55%, from 22.4 to 10.2 cases/100,000.
The researchers estimate that 12,500 fewer cases of pneumonia and 1100 fewer deaths from the disease occurred among seniors in 2002 and 2003, compared with the numbers of cases and deaths that occurred before the vaccine became available.
Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.