Pneumococcal vaccine safe and effective for kids with cancer


By Mardi Chapman

2 Aug 2017

All children and adolescents diagnosed with cancer should receive a single dose of pneumococcal vaccine as soon as possible, regardless of their previous vaccine exposure.

A Western Australian study has confirmed that the standard 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine is safe and immunogenic in children whether given during or at the end of cancer treatment.

The study comprised 86 children aged 1-18 years, either on or having just completed immunosuppressive treatment for haematological cancers or solid tumours.

Dr Christopher Blyth, a paediatric infectious diseases physician at the Princess Margaret Hospital and research fellow at the Telethon Kids Institute, told the limbic that children on chemotherapy had more than 100 times the risk of pneumococcal disease as other children.

“Often children can be on treatment for three years so the window of risk is really quite large and we often traditionally waited until they had finished treatment,” he said.

“However the take home message is we can boost existing immunity in children both on or off treatment and increase their level of protection with a single dose of vaccine.”

Protective antibody titres (≥0.35ug/mL) increased from ≤50% before vaccination to ≥70% post-vaccination across a majority of the serotypes.

Dr Blyth said there were no significant, severe side effects.

“One of the concerns was if we give vaccines, children might develop a temperature and present back to hospital but this was an uncommon problem in this group which was quite reassuring.”

“We can deliver this vaccine to children at specific times of their treatment safely and effectively.”

The study excluded children who would be at increased risk of side effects including those who were febrile, neutropenic or thrombocytopenic.

Dr Blyth said the next research question was to identify the ideal schedule for vaccination.

The study found it was harder to induce antibodies in the children on active cancer treatment than those off treatment, which supported the role of an additional dose on completion of immunosuppressive therapy.


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