A Childhood Vaccine that Actually Protects Everyone

New studies have revealed that children and infants immunized with the pneumococcal vaccine prevented the spread of pneumonia to adults. The practice of infant pneumonia vaccine against certain bacteria has eliminated 1 out of 10 cases of the elderly being hospitalized with pneumonia.

Pneumonia—an infection of the lungs—is one of the leading causes of hospitalization in the United States. Even adults who do not get vaccinated benefit from infants who are. The logic follows: If the baby does not get sick, family members cannot get sick, and thus they cannot pass it onto others. Some medical experts even believe the indirect protection that the infant pneumonia vaccine confers to adults—also known as herd immunity—is more effective than the pneumococcal vaccine that is designed for adults.

Researchers retrospectively looked at rate of pneumonia vaccinations over the last decade and found four out of 10 cases of children aged two or under being hospitalized for pneumonia were virtually eliminated since the infant pneumonia vaccine mandate. What’s more, the number of adults hospitalized for pneumonia, especially those 65 years of age and older, reduced dramatically.

The bacteria that cause pneumonia can live incognito in a person and the infected person is asymptomatic. Children are often carriers and can pass the bacteria on to older family members, especially to grandparents. The current pneumonia vaccine for children protects against more than 10 types of bacteria that could cause the infection.

The infant pneumonia vaccine initiative was very successful, lowering the cases of ear aches and other types of infections as well. Nevertheless, some experts wonder if by cleaning out this type of bacteria the vaccine is just making room for another pathogen to settle in. More study in this field is required to verify if that can happen. For now, pneumonia hospitalizations are on the decline.