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Pneumonia drop ups vaccine's value

A flu shot is prepared

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MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: The vaccine Prevnar has been controversial because of its high cost, but pediatricians have embraced it because it prevents deadly diseases like meningitis. Now a recent study in the journal Lancet shows it also cuts pneumonia cases in kids and adults. From the Health Desk at WGBH, Helen Palmer has more.


HELEN PALMER: Prevnar earns drug maker Wyeth $1.5 billion a year. No surprise, says Marie Griffin of Vanderbilt University.
MARIE GRIFFIN: Children need to get four doses of the vaccine, and each dose costs about $60.

Griffin, a professor of preventive medicine, found 39 percent fewer children were hospitalized after the vaccine was introduced in 2000.

GRIFFIN: That translates into about 41,000 fewer pneumonia admissions in 2004.

Government figures peg the cost for a child's hospital stay for pneumonia at nearly $12,000 — so the vaccine saves nearly half a billion a year. Of course, vaccinating all those kids costs nearly three-quarters of a billion, but Prevnar also prevents deadly infections.

Kaiser Permanente's Thomas Ray studied what that was worth.

THOMAS RAY: There's a life a year saved for every $7,500 that you spend.

Ray says fewer pneumonia infections make this vaccine look even more cost-effective.

In Boston, I'm Helen Palmer for Marketplace.

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