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House of Lords Hansard
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Health: Pneumococcal Disease
03 November 2014
Volume 756

Question

Asked by

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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the progress of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation in its review of the adult pneumococcal disease programme.

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The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation concluded a review of the adult pneumococcal vaccination programme in 2012. The committee will begin the next review in early 2015, taking into account the latest information on the epidemiology, cost effectiveness and impact of adult pneumococcal vaccination. It is anticipated that the review will take six months to complete, subject to the availability of the necessary evidence.

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My Lords, the JCVI looked at the situation in its June meeting and said that it would like to see the results of recent trials on the effectiveness of PPV in adults, but the subject was not on the agenda for the October meeting. Why are those trials not in the public domain? Since it is likely that the vaccination would be effective against the 5,000 cases diagnosed in adults every year in England, with some savings to the National Health Service, what steps are being taken to accelerate the introduction of the PPV vaccine?

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My noble friend is right to highlight the burden of disease caused by pneumonia in particular in the elderly. As I said in my Answer, what happened at the October meeting of the JVCI was an agreement that a pneumococcal sub-committee should be formed to fully consider the latest evidence on adult pneumococcal vaccination, including the evolving epidemiology of pneumococcal disease in the UK following the introduction of the conjugate vaccine into the childhood vaccination programme. In addition, the review will consider the latest data on the use of the conjugate vaccine in adults. This was discussed at the October meeting, the minutes of which are due to be published next week.

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My Lords, as a young doctor, I saw many cases of pneumococcal meningitis in childhood. This disease caused about a 15% mortality, and 25% of those who recovered were left with serious disabilities such as blindness, deafness and other forms of abnormality. The disease in adults is much less devastating. Vaccination in children has been enormously successful in almost completely eradicating pneumococcal meningitis. Pneumonia in elderly adults, caused by the pneumococcus, is a very serious disease. May we express the hope that the committee will come up with very positive recommendations for a wider vaccination programme with a different group of vaccines for adults?

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My Lords, the noble Lord summarised the position extremely well. I share his hope that we will see an outcome from the sub-committee’s work in which everyone can take satisfaction. He is right that rates of pneumococcal disease in children have fallen dramatically, but it is interesting that the knock-on effect of that has been to reduce the rate in adults as well.

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My Lords, I am sure that the noble Earl would agree that, not only for this disease, effective vaccination and immunisation lead to fewer people being in hospital and rates of infection being reduced. It also means that we have a much better patient flow coming through. Surely, to be successful, immunisation and vaccination need to be encouraged.

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The noble Baroness is of course quite right. It is important to emphasise that part of the benefit of the seasonal flu vaccination campaign is to reduce the risk in adults and children of pneumococcal disease. That is another good reason to get the flu vaccination.