PREVNAR: FDA Approves Expensive Meningitis Inoculation
The FDA yesterday approved the Prevnar vaccine, used to prevent meningitis, blood poisoning and ear infections in infants and children, the New York Times reports. The move comes one day after the a FDA advisory panel reversed an earlier decision to administer the shot to all children under the age of five because of its high cost -- $232 for four shots or the equivalent to all other childhood immunizations combined. The advisory committee's amended recommendation narrowed the vaccine recipients to children under two years of age and to high risk toddlers between two to five years old, including African Americans, Native Americans, Alaskan Natives and those with HIV, sickle-cell anemia or other immunodeficiency disorders. Used to fight the pneumococcus bacteria, the vaccine's maker, Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, defended the price saying that "the amount of disease you are preventing and will prevent for years to come justifies the price" (Stolberg, 2/18). Some doctors have expressed concern about increasing the number of infant inoculations. Gary Emmett, president of the Philadelphia Pediatrics Society, said, "What I don't like about it is we're going to be giving four shots, four needles" in early infancy" (FitzGerald, Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/18). Others worry about giving vaccines to some children and not others. But Dr. Gary Overturf of the University of New Mexico, an authority on infectious diseases, said, "We are uncomfortable making decisions strictly on cost, but I don't think this was strictly on cost. We had to set a priority to put those children at high risk first." The advisory panel's recommendation is not binding, but the CDC is "likely to follow it" (New York Times 2/18).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.