Study findings indicate that the current schedule of vaccines against pneumonia, sepsis and meningitis does not provide sustained immunity to infants.
The study, led by UCL in partnership with University of Liverpool, Ministry of Health, and Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Programme (MLW), proposes a booster dose or changing the vaccination schedule altogether to significantly reduce the risk of infants contracting the diseases in Malawi and other Low and Medium Income Countries (LMICs).
PCVs—also known as the pneumonia vaccine— which protect people from serious and potentially fatal pneumonia, blood poisoning (sepsis) and meningitis are part of routine infant immunisation offered to children under two years of age.
In Malawi, the vaccines are given in three primary doses at six, 10 and 14 weeks of age but the team’s findings, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases (Lancet ID), highlight the need to review vaccine strategies to sustain vaccine-induced antibody levels and control the spread of diseases.
“Policy decisions should favour [changes] including a booster dose later in the first or second year of life, as endorsed by WHO [World Health Organisation], to achieve sustained vaccine-induced antibody titres. By inducing higher antibody concentrations later in the child’s life, the booster dose might lead to longer protection against colonisation and improved indirect protection, which is crucial for successful PCV programmes.
“However, both the impact and the cost-effectiveness of such strategies need to be evaluated before they are implemented in vaccine programmes,” the report reads.
Meanwhile, health rights advocate Maziko Matemba has described the study as eye-opening, saying it has the potential to inform health policy.
WHO estimates that more than 300,000 children under the age of five die of such diseases every year, with the greatest burden among those in LMICs.