This month I am focusing on vaccinations- the FLU vaccine, Tetanus, Pertussis, and now…the “pneumonia” vaccine. This vaccine works against Streptococcus pneumonia, the “pneumococcal bacteria” which causes hundreds of thousands of cases of pneumonia, sepsis and meningitis in the United States every year. Before routine childhood immunization against this bacteria, there were also over 5 million ear infections per year caused by this organism. This bacteria has developed quite a bit of resistance to antibiotics, and the more serious pneumococcal diseases have a very high mortality rate ranging up to 37%, so everything we can do to prevent pneumococcal disease saves innumerable lives.
Recommendations for this vaccination USED to only be for adults over 65 or those adults who had their spleen removed or had severe immune-compromising illness. However, in 2008, the ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) realized that the scientific evidence showed that adults who smoke or have asthma are at much higher risk of developing pneumococcal disease, and CHANGED the RECOMMENDATIONS to include ADULTS WHO SMOKE or HAVE ANY TYPE OF ASTHMA (exercise-induced,
There are two types of pneumococcal vaccine: PPSV23 and PCV 13, which target the specific subtypes of this bacteria that cause the most disease. Children receive PCV13 (trade name, Prevnar), as part of their infant series at 2, 4, 6, and 12-15 months of age.
ADULTS (19 -64) should receive the PPSV23 (trade name, Pneumovax) pneumococcal vaccination if they are a SMOKER; if they have ASTHMA or DIABETES; or if they have chronic lung, heart, liver or kidney disease, cochlear implants, a missing (removed) or non-functional spleen, or an immuno-compromising illness such as cancer or HIV disease.
ALL ADULTS over the age of 65 should receive a PPSV23 pneumococcal vaccine as well. If they already had a pneumococcal vaccine before the age of 65 (because they are asthmatic, or a smoker, or diabetic, etc.) then they need a BOOSTER second vaccination at 65, or as soon as it has been at least 5 years since they received their first pneumococcal shot.
Adults with some of the more serious conditions that affect their immune system should receive both types of pneumococcal vaccine (for more details, see the CDC’s Pneumonia Vaccine Q&A).
BOTTOM LINE: If you are over 65 or if you are aged 19-64 and you have asthma, diabetes or have not yet quit smoking, please talk to your doctor about getting the “pneumonia vaccine”!