Children under the age of two can get a free vaccination this September against a type of bacteria that causes pneumonia, the Department of Health has announced. The vaccine protects against Streptococcus pneumoniae, also known as pneumococcus, which causes pneumonia, meningitis, bacteremia and ear infections. The vaccine, to be offered at 31 maternal and child health centres, will be included in the government's childhood immunisation programme beginning on September 1. The vaccination is administered in four doses - the first one when an infant is older than two months, and the remainder when they are between 12 and 15 months. The department estimated that a total of 280,000 doses would be required each year as there were about 70,000 newborns annually. Children born between September 1, 2007 and June 30 this year will be eligible for a 'catch-up' programme, to run until 2011, although the number of doses required would vary depending on the age of the infant. The department said about 128,000 children could benefit from the catch-up programme and between 200,000 to 250,000 doses would be administered. The convenor of the Child Vaccination Concern Group, Bill Lay Yan-piau, welcomed the move, but called for an earlier implementation.