Pneumonia Vaccine and Healthy Older Adults

Although we are months away from cold and flu season, there has been a recent shift in the recommendation by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding pneumococcal vaccines for healthy older adults that should be on your radar. 

According to the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), the long-standing recommendation that all adults 65 and older should receive two pneumococcal vaccines, the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13 or Prevnar 13) followed by the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23 or Pneumovax), has shifted slightly for healthy older adults. 

Experts suggest that healthy seniors 65 and older talk with their doctor to determine if the vaccine is appropriate for them.  Why the sudden change of heart?  According to data about pneumococcal disease, the success of the vaccination campaign for children has effectively halted the spread of bacteria since it’s implementation in 2010.  And as a result of the nearly 80 percent drop in invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) among children, adults have also been protected from exposure to pneumococcal bacteria.  

Without young children acting as carriers for infection, seniors are not as likely to become sick from the 13 strains of pneumococcus which the 2nd dose of the vaccine protects against.  The ACIP does still recommend that adults over the age of 65 continue to receive the first vaccine and seniors at increased risk for pneumococcal disease get both shots in the series. Older adults with diabetes, heart disease, lung disease or who are immunocompromised or is a smoker should continue to receive both vaccines.  

If you have any questions about what vaccines you should be receiving, talk with your doctor or check the CDC’s Recommended Adult Immunization Schedule for ages 19 and older for 2019. 

The CDC has also created a pneumococcal vaccination recommendation app based on the latest ACIP recommendations.   Learn more about how to download the app here