The vaccine can help prevent pneumococcal diseases, such as meningitis and blood infections, which cause serious illness and even death. Pneumococcal diseases are the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in the U.S., and children under 2 years of age are at highest risk.
In the past few months, the CDC and health groups recommended reducing the recommended doses of Prevnar to two to efficiently use the limited amount of vaccine available. Children up to 15 months of age who are at high risk of disease, such as those with immune disorders or sickle cell anemia, should still receive the full, four-dose series of the vaccine.
"The CDC has worked closely with the manufacturer to assess the situation and manage limited supplies of the vaccine. Supplies are now adequate to reinstate the third dose," says Steve Cochi, MD, acting director of the CDC National Immunization Program. "We will continue to closely monitor supplies and will make additional recommendations if the supply situation changes."
Shortages Plague Meningitis Vaccine
In February, the CDC recommended suspending the fourth dose of the vaccine when it learned the manufacturer, Wyeth Vaccines, would not be able to produce enough to meet the demand. In March, the third dose was also suspended after it became clear that production of the vaccine would be limited for several months.
The vaccine is normally recommended on a four-dose schedule: one dose each at 2, 4, and 6 months of age and another between 12 and 15 months of age.
Today's action reinstates the third dose normally given at 6 months for healthy children. The fourth dose should still be deferred for healthy children.
Health officials recommend the following catch-up schedule for children who have missed their third dose:
- Highest priority: Children at risk for pneumococcal disease
- Second priority: Healthy children under 24 months of age who have not received any doses of Prevnar
- Third priority: Healthy children younger than 12 months who have not yet received three doses
Officials say catch-up vaccinations may occur at the regularly scheduled pediatrician visits for most children.
For more information on the recommended vaccination schedule for children, visit the CDC web site at www.cdc.gov/nip.