WebMD Medical News
Louise Chang, MD
April 2, 2007 -- Children's frequent ear infections may be rarer than in the
past, thanks to vaccination against pneumonia and related diseases.
That's according to a new study published in Pediatrics.
The study focuses on the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, which targets
pneumococcal infections that can cause serious pneumococcal diseases including
pneumonia and meningitis.
The vaccine may also prevent ear infections caused by a certain type of
pneumococcal bacteria. But the vaccine doesn't guard against other causes of
The CDC recommends that all children get the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine
in four doses before their second birthday. The CDC also recommends the vaccine
for unvaccinated kids 2-5 years old.
Those recommendations, in place since in the middle of 2000, may have curbed
frequent ear infections in children, the new study shows.
The new study is based on data from Tennessee's health care program for
low-income children and from three commercial managed care companies in upstate
Children with frequent ear infections had at least three ear infections
within six months or at least four ear infections within a year.
The study shows that frequent ear infections were less common in kids born
after the CDC's recommendation than in children born earlier.
For instance, 33% of Tennessee kids born in 1998 or 1999 had frequent ear
infections by the time they were 5 years old. That percentage dropped to 29%
for kids born in 2000 or 2001.
In New York, frequent ear infections were 28% rarer in children born in 2000
or 2001 than in those born in 1998 or 1999.
The study also shows that kids born after the CDC's vaccine recommendation
were less likely to get ear tubes surgically inserted in their ears to help
prevent recurrent ear infections than children born earlier.
Ear tube insertions were 16% rarer in Tennessee and 23% rarer in New York
for kids born in 2000 or 2001 than in those born in 1998 or 1999.
The decline in frequent ear infections and ear tube insertions eased
somewhat for Tennessee children born in 2001 or 2002.
The reason for that trend isn't clear, but it should be monitored, note the
They included Katherine Poehling, MD, MPH. She worked on the study while at
Vanderbilt University's pediatrics department and is now with Wake Forest
University's pediatrics department.
SOURCES: Poehling, K. Pediatrics, April 2007; vol 119: pp 707-715.
CDC: "Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine: What You Need to Know."
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