Vaccinations have significantly decreased the number of diseases caused by pneumococcus among young children. This is mainly due to the decreased number of middle-ear infections among children.

Image/James Gathany-CDC
Image/James Gathany-CDC

However, invasive pneumococcal diseases, such as meningitis and sepsis, have decreased as well, along with pneumonia and suspected cases of invasive pneumococcal diseases, Finnish health authorities report (computer translated).

This information is based on the extensive FinIP vaccine trial conducted by the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

“The benefits of the pneumococcal vaccine for young children have now been estimated more extensively than ever before. Severe diseases caused by pneumococcus are as high as four times more common than previously assumed, multiplying the benefit of the vaccine. A significant share of the decrease in disease burden and treatment costs is due to the reduced number of mild respiratory tract infections, particularly otitis media,” says Arto Palmu, Research Manager.

The results have been published in the journal, Vaccine.

The information about the vaccine’s impact on pneumoccal diseases was collected from THL’s National Infectious Diseases Register and Care Register and from the benefits register of the Social Insurance Institution of Finland, Kela.

“The FinIP vaccine trial is a good example of how the valuable and almost unique Finnish register data resources can be utilised as part of a clinical trial to promote public and individual health,” says Palmu.

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The FinIP trial was conducted in 2009–2012 together with health care centres, child health clinics and vaccine manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline. It included over 41,000 children. In addition, the Tampere University Vaccine Research Centre conducted a parallel trial with 6,000 children.

Globally, pneumococcus is the most significant bacterial cause of child mortality. Before the national vaccination programme started in September 2010, pneumococcus caused annually approximately 5–10 meningitis cases, 100 sepsis cases, over 2,500 pneumonia cases, and 30,000 otitis media cases among Finnish children under 5 years of age.