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Pneumonia Vaccine Saving Lives

Study finds big drop in infection-linked death in hospitalized patients

WEDNESDAY, March 29, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- A new study suggests that the pneumonia vaccine does fight off a potential killer.

Hospitalized adults who've been vaccinated against pneumonia are much less likely to die from the disease than those who haven't been immunized, said U.S. researchers who analyzed data from nearly 63,000 patients hospitalized for pneumonia between 1999 and 2003.

The study found that vaccinated patients were 40 percent to 70 percent less likely to die while in hospital than unvaccinated patients or patients with unknown vaccination status. Vaccinated patients were also less likely to develop respiratory failure, kidney failure, or heart attack, and their average hospital stay was two days shorter than that of unvaccinated patients.

The findings appear online in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases and are expected to be published in the April 15 print issue.

Study lead author Dr. David Fisman of Princeton University noted that adult pneumonia vaccination has been somewhat controversial because it's been difficult to prove that it prevents pneumonia, especially in older adults. This study offered evidence the vaccine can save lives.

"When people hit the door really sick and most likely to die, even in those people, being vaccinated was associated with a lower risk of death," Fisman said in a prepared statement.

The vaccine helps prevent bacterial infection of the bloodstream (bacteremia), he said.

"Even if you're really sick, prevention of the bacteria getting into the bloodstream might save your life," Fisman said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults age 65 and older get the pneumococcal vaccine and has set a goal of having 90 percent of older adults vaccinated by 2010.

"According to our results, reaching the CDC's 'Healthy People 2010' targets for pneumococcal vaccination would be expected to save thousands of lives, and prevents tens of millions of dollars in healthcare expenses each year," Fisman said.

More information

The American Lung Association has more about pneumonia.

SOURCE: Infectious Diseases Society of America, news release, March 15, 2006
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