Singapore first country in Asia to get new pneumococcal vaccine

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SINGAPORE - Singapore will be the first country in Asia to get Pfizer’s new pneumococcal vaccine, which has a broader range of protection and could replace the two that are now in use here.

The vaccines protect against the more common bacterial strains responsible for pneumococcal disease, which causes a range of infections including pneumonia, meningitis, sinus and middle-ear infection. It can lead to very severe illness and even death.

In fact, pneumonia, or inflammation of the lungs, is the third major cause of death here.

These vaccines do not protect against all causes of pneumonia, since that can be due to a range of bugs including other types of bacteria, virus or even fungi.

But they do provide protection against the more common strains of the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, which is why the Government encourages and subsidises pneumococcal vaccination for Singaporean children and seniors.

For seniors, the recommendation is to get the pneumococcal conjugate PCV13 vaccine first, followed by the pneumococcal polysaccharide PPSV23 vaccine a year later.

The new vaccine, PCV20, covers seven more bacterial strains than the PCV13, also manufactured by Pfizer. The PPSV23 is by Merck Sharp & Dohme and covers 23 strains of bacteria.

Professor Julio Ramirez, chief research scientist at the Norton Infectious Diseases Institute at Norton Healthcare in the United States, who was the principal investigator in studies of the PCV13 vaccine, was brought in by Pfizer for the launch of the PCV20 here on Saturday.

He said that unlike polysaccharide vaccines, conjugate vaccines, aside from getting the body to produce antibodies that protect against infection, also prime T cells and memory B cells, which can mount a response against invasive bacteria even after the level of antibodies has waned.

Professor Ooi Eng Eong, a microbiologist at the Duke-NUS...

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