The pneumonia vaccine is not effective in preventing pneumonia or death, new trials reveal.

A Swedish study shows that middle aged and elderly patients vaccinated against pneumococcal pneumonia were not protected and were, in fact, more likely to come down with the disease.

The trial was carried out in hospitals across the country. Pneumococcal pneumonia was diagnosed in 4.5 per cent of the 352 patients in the placebo group and 5.6 per cent of the 339 patients among those given the vaccine.

This pattern was repeated in the number of patients who developed general pneumonia. In the vaccine group, as many as 19 per cent of patients developed a new pneumonia, while only 16 per cent of the placebo group contracted the new strain. There was no difference in the death rates of the two study groups.

The middle aged and elderly patients in the double blind, randomised, placebo controlled trial had been discharged from hospital after treatment for pneumonia, but were otherwise thought to be healthy. The vaccine was given eight weeks after hospital discharge (Lancet, 1998; 351: 398-403).

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