Recently, I’ve noticed television commercials for Prevnar-13, a 13-valent pneumococcal vaccine for immunocompromised or asplenic adults. And interestingly, I noticed that the CDC has now added a recommendation such that these patients receive this vaccination, and then the good old 23-valent vaccine (Pneumovax) 8 weeks later.
WTF? Patients with splenectomy (or significant angio-embolization) for trauma are considered functionally asplenic. And although the data for immunization in this group is weak, giving triple vaccinations with pneumcoccal, H. flu, and meningococcal vaccines has become a standard of care.
This was difficult enough already because there was debate around the best time to administer: during the hospital stay or several weeks later after the immune system depression from trauma had resolved. The unfortunate truth is that many trauma patients never come back for followup, and so don’t get any vaccines if they are not given during the hospital stay.
And then came the recommendation a few years ago to give a 5-year booster for the pneumococcal vaccine. I have a hard time remembering when my last tetanus vaccine was to schedule my own booster. How can I expect my trauma patients to remember and come back for their pneumococcal vaccine booster?
So what do we do with the CDC Prevnar-13 recommendation? If we add it, it means that we give Prevnar while the patient is in the hospital, and then hope they come back 8 weeks later for their Pneumovax. And then 5 years later for the booster dose. Huh?
Looking at the package insert, I read that Pneumovax protects against 23 serotypes of S. Pneumo, which represent 85% of most commonly encountered strains out there. So it’s not perfect. Prevnar-13 protects against 13 serotypes, and there is no indication as to what percent of strains encountered are protected against.
So I decided to dig deeper and look at the serotypes included in each vaccine. Here they are:
- Pneumovax: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6B, 7F, 8, 9N, 9V, 10A, 11A, 12F, 14, 15B, 17F, 18C, 19F, 19A, 20, 22F, 23F, and 33F
- Prevnar: 1, 3, 4, 5, 6A, 6B, 7F, 9V, 14, 18C, 19A, 19F, and 23F
I bolded the serotypes in Prevnar-13 not found in the Pneumovax vaccine. There was only one, serotype 6A. Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to find the prevalence by serotype, and it varies geographically and over time.
Bottom line: I’m not an epidemiologist. But making a set of vaccination rules more complicated for a complex population, and for indications that are a bit weak in the first place, seems unwise. Especially since the added vaccine offers protection for only one more serotype of Pneumococcus.
So please help me out here. Show me something I’m missing. Otherwise, I’ll stick to the original three vaccines, and try to remind my patients to get that booster five years down the road.
Reference: Use of 13-Valent Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine and 23-Valent Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine for Adults with Immunocompromising Conditions: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR 61(40):816-819, October 12, 2012.