A childhood vaccine against pneumonia and related diseases seems to be curbing kids' pneumonia hospitalizations.

That news comes from a study on children's pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, which targets pneumonia, meningitis, and other pneumococcal diseases.

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The Centers for Disease Control recommends that all U.S. children get four doses of the vaccine by their 2nd birthday. The CDC also recommends the vaccine for unvaccinated kids 2-5 years old.

The CDC's recommendations took effect in 2000.

The new study shows a 39 percent drop in pneumonia hospitalizations from 1997 to 2004 for kids less than 2 years old.

That means 41,000 fewer kids in that age range were hospitalized for pneumonia in 2004, compared with seven years earlier, before the vaccine's debut.

"Our results contribute to the growing body of evidence supporting the beneficial effects of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines," write the researchers.

They included Carlos Grijalva, MD, of Vanderbilt University's medical school.

Pneumonia hospitalizations for adults aged 18-39 dropped 26 percent from 1997 to 2004, the study also shows.

Adults in that age range may be the parents of young children. Kids who get the pneumonia vaccination may be less likely to give pneumonia to their parents, the researchers suggest.

The downturn in pneumonia hospitalizations probably isn't due to an increase in outpatient treatment of pneumonia, according to Grijalva and colleagues.

The study "illustrates again how the value of the vaccine has far exceeded expectations," states an editorial published with the study in The Lancet.

The editorialists included Orin Levine, PhD, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

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This article was reviewed by Louise Chang, MD