PREVENAR: CDC Changes Recommendation, Cites Cost Concerns
As expected, a CDC panel yesterday reversed its October recommendation that the Prevenar vaccine, which fights ear infections, pneumonia and meningitis, be given to all children under age five. Citing its high price tag -- $232 for a four-dose series -- the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices said the vaccine should only be administered to children under age two and to those ages two through five who are at high risk of contracting the disease (AP/New York Times, 2/17). Among those at greatest risk are African Americans, Native Americans, toddlers in day care and children with a deficient immune system, chronic ear infections or sickle cell anemia (Shook, Bergen Record, 2/17). The decision marks only the second time the committee has considered the economic implications of a vaccine. Dr. John Modlin, panel chair and professor of pediatric medicine at Dartmouth University, said, "We're having to look at cost more and more. We know (Prevenar) will be expensive in the short term, but over the long haul ... we could see a lowering of pediatric health costs as a result of this." Committee member Dr. Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, decried the focus on economic factors. "This could save lives no matter what the age or cost, and the discussion about at what price this become reasonable is indecipherable to me. We need to recommend it first and figure out how to pay for it second," he said. The vaccine, manufactured by American Home Products Inc., is expected to receive federal approval this week (AP/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 2/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.