A CDC advisory committee’s recent discussion about childhood immunizations could impact which new vaccines are available to which children.
Recommendations about new vaccines and immunizations typically come from the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which plays a critical role in protecting public health – including infant health. The committee’s meeting earlier this year spotlighted two specific vaccines: pneumococcal and RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus.
Pneumococcal Vaccine Considerations
Complex pneumococcal vaccines protect against infections, ranging from “mild to very dangerous,” that affect the brain, ears and lungs.
Different pneumococcal vaccines are often compared based upon how many strains of the bacterium they protect against, a concept known as valency. But as Melinda Wharton, MD, of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices noted in a recent webinar, that isn’t the only factor that should be considered.
The vaccines’ effectiveness in real-world use is also important. Approved pneumococcal vaccines require four doses for full protection. Yet many children, including the nation’s most vulnerable children, don’t complete the full series. Committee members should, therefore, also consider which vaccines offer the best protection if the series isn’t completed.
Considerations like these are particularly important as the committee issues its formal recommendations, published in what’s known as the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Those recommendations need to clearly highlight the differences among pneumococcal vaccines, as well as potential trade-offs. Only then can pediatric health care providers make informed decisions about how to best serve their patients.
RSV Vaccine Considerations
Forthcoming tools to protect against RSV are also on the CDC committee’s radar.
In particular, the committee’s most recent meeting covered a maternal RSV vaccine and a novel immunization to protect infants from RSV. Both are expected to be approved by the FDA in the coming weeks. After that, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will decide whether to formally recommend these interventions’ use.
The committee will also determine whether the novel immunization for infants, a long-acting preventive monoclonal antibody, should be added to the federally funded Vaccines for Children Program. The program provides shots at no cost to children who run the risk of not being vaccinated due to lack of insurance or financial resources. The committee’s decision should ensure broad, equitable access – not exacerbate existing health disparities.
For a nation acutely aware of the impact of infectious diseases, access to immunizations is as timely a topic as ever. So too is the role that the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices plays in building trust, generating confidence and ensuring access for young children.