Pfizer vaccine helps protect children from serious illness

September 29, 2010

It’s not every day a grandfather’s work is potentially lifesaving. But for Michael Hodgdon, senior supervisor at Pfizer’s Andover facility, it is.

Hodgdon has played an integral role in the development of eight products on the market right now, including the new pediatric vaccine Prevnar 13® (Pneumococcal 13-valent Conjugate Vaccine [Diphtheria CRM197 Protein]) – a product he has focused his attention on for four years.Hodgdon

“That’s the longest I’ve ever been on a project, but it’s by choice,” said Hodgdon. “It’s exciting what we’re doing. No matter what your day is like, you can go home thinking, ‘I just helped thousands of kids around the world.’”

Approved for children 6 weeks through 5 years of age in the U.S., Prevnar 13 helps prevent invasive  pneumococcal disease caused by some of the most common strains of the bacteria threatening young children today. Invasive pneumococcal disease includes bacterial meningitis, which is an inflammation of the covering of the brain and spinal cord.

The reality of Hodgdon’s work hit close to home a few months ago, when his granddaughters, Brady, 3, and Morgan, 2, received the Prevnar 13 vaccine.

“My daughter told them, ‘Grandpa made it with love,’” he said. “We take pride in what we do here and strive for safety first. I know first-hand how it’s made and about our rigorous safety standards. I would never hesitate to have my grandbabies vaccinated.”

Prevnar 13 was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in February and is also on the market in a number of countries throughout Europe, Asia and South America.

“I love this product,” said Hodgdon, who has been working in the biotech field since 1988. “You can’t  overestimate the value it will have, especially in the world’s poorest countries where children die of pneumonia all the time.”

According to a World Health Organization estimate, pneumococcal disease is the leading cause of vaccine-preventable death worldwide in children younger than five years old.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend the use of Prevnar 13 in infants and young children. The new 13-valent vaccine replaces its predecessor, Prevnar®, which was introduced in 2000 to help protect against seven strains of pneumococcal bacteria. Prevnar 13 includes the seven strains in Prevnar plus six additional strains including the most common ones threatening infants and young children in the U.S. today.

Prevnar was developed by Wyeth, which was acquired late last year by Pfizer. Pfizer’s Andover researchers played an integral role in the development of Prevnar 13, and in 2011 Pfizer’s Andover site will become a key worldwide manufacturing facility for the polysaccharide component used in the production of Prevnar 13.

Pfizer now employs more than 2000 people at four sites in Andover and Cambridge

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