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Vaccine Helps Reduce Childhood Pneumonia Risk

Black Children Still at Higher Risk of Developing Pneumonia
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WebMD Health News

May 11, 2004 -- Thanks to the pneumonia vaccine, fewer young children are developing pneumonia. But black children still have the highest risk.

The pneumonia immunization program, initiated by the CDC four years ago, is one of very few vaccine programs given priority status for certain minority groups -- specifically, black children, writes Brendon Flannery, PhD, with the CDC's National Center for Infectious Diseases. His report appears in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association.

In his report, Flannery outlines the progress made thus far. While fewer black children now develop pneumonia, there still remains a big disparity among ethnic groups.

Black Children Still at High Risk

Flannery provides data on pneumonia cases in seven metropolitan areas/regions: San Francisco; the state of Connecticut; the Atlanta metropolitan area; the Baltimore, Md., metropolitan area; Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn.; Rochester, N.Y.; and Portland, Ore.

Among 14,025 children included in the 2002 survey, 62% were white, 35% were black, 3% were Asian/ Pacific Islander or American Indian/Alaska Native; and 4% were Hispanic.

Comparing 1998 (prevaccine era) statistics with 2002 statistics, Flannery found dramatic decreases in annual rates of pneumonia.

In whites the annual rates of pneumonia cases fell from 19 cases per 100,000 white people to almost 12 cases for every 100,000 white persons.

During that same time period, the study showed that for the black American population the annual rate of pneumonia also fell, from 54.9 cases per 100,000 to 26.5 cases per 100,000.

Based on this information the researchers showed that in 2002:

  • There were 14,730 fewer pneumonia cases among white children compared with 8,789 fewer pneumonia cases among black children.
  • Compared with the prevaccine era, pneumonia rates were lower for whites in all age categories than for blacks, but the greatest reductions were in children younger than 2 years old.
  • Among children younger than age 2, there were 77% fewer white and 89% fewer black cases of pneumonia in 2002.
  • Among children aged 2 to 4 there were 51% fewer cases of pneumonia among whites and 66% fewer cases among blacks with pneumonia.

By 2002, more children were getting vaccines:

  • 74% of white children and 68% of black children (aged 19 to 35 months) in these states had received at least one dose of the pneumococcal vaccine shot.
  • 43% of white and 39% of black children younger than age 3 had received three or more doses.

The pneumonia vaccine "is clearly an important tool for reducing this excess risk," writes Flannery.

SOURCE: Flannery, B. Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), May 12, 2004; vol 291: pg 2197-2203.

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