Emory Report
November 10, 2008
Volume 61, Number 11



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November 10
, 2008
Vaccinating infants could ebb pandemic

By Holly Korschun

Bacterial infections, particularly pneumococcal disease, can develop after viral illnesses such as influenza and cause secondary infections that make flu symptoms worse. In fact, bacterial infections may have caused nearly half the deaths of young soldiers during the 1918 flu pandemic.

Now Emory researchers, led by Keith Klugman in the Rollins School of Public Health, have used a predictive model to show that the currently recommended practice of vaccinating infants with PCV7 (7 valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine) would prevent more than 1.24 million cases of pneumonia and 357,000 deaths during an influenza pandemic. The cost savings would be more than $7 billion. Already, the vaccine saves more than $1.4 billion in a typical flu season by preventing pneumococcal illnesses.

“We’ve known for years that bacterial infections can develop after influenza,” says Klugman.

“This model shows what a dramatically different outcome we could expect with standard PCV vaccination.”
Klugman presented results of the research, which was funded by Wyeth Research, at the joint Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy and Infectious Disease Society of America meeting in Washington, D.C.

“Our research shows that routine pneumococcal vaccination is a proactive approach that can greatly reduce the effects of a future flu pandemic,” says Klugman. “Countries that have not yet implemented a pneumococcal vaccination program may want to consider this as part of their pandemic flu preparedness.”