On February 24th, a new version of the pneumococcal vaccine was approved for use in children under 6 years old. The older version Prevnar 7 will soon be phased out and replaced by Prevnar 13. Both are made by Pfizer and protect against Streptococcus pneumoniae, which causes invasive pneumococcal disease, including meningitis, as well as some ear infections. The difference between the two vaccines are the number of serotypes, or strains of the virus, each vaccine protects against. As indicated by the name, Prevnar 7 protects against 7 serotypes of Strep. pneumoniae where as Prevnar 13 protects against 13.
The dosing schedule will remain the same. It will be a 4 dose series given at 2, 4, 6 and 12-15 months of age. For children still under 15 months of age, who have not received all 4 doses, they will receive Prevnar 13 in place of Prevnar 7 for any remaining scheduled doses. There is no need to restart the vaccination process with the new vaccine.
Only one dose of Prevnar 13 is necessary to confer immunity against the additional 6 serotypes of Strep. pneumoniae. Thus, for children who have completed their Prevnar series, but who are less than 5 years old, it is recommended that they get one dose of Prevnar 13 at their next regularly scheduled visit. Prevnar 13 can be given 2 months after the last Prevnar 7 dose. (For children with underlying medical conditions such as sickle cell anemia or children who do not have a spleen, the cut off age for giving an additional dose of Prevnar 13 is increased to 18 years old.)
The most common adverse reactions to Prevnar 13 were similar to most childhood vaccines: "redness, swelling and tenderness at the injection site, fever, decreased appetite, irritability, increased sleep and decreased sleep."
Prevnar 13 is not yet available but should be shortly. You should feel free to discuss any questions you have regarding the new version of Prevnar with your pediatrician. Since all offices will not be receiving Prevnar 13 at the same time, your pediatrician should inform you which version of Prevnar your child receives at any upcoming visits and if it is Prevnar 13 it should be noted as such on his yellow vaccination card to avoid unnecessary additional doses in the future.