Pneumonia Vaccine

Dear Dr. Mahler: I read about the new pneumonia shot, but am confused because my doctor gave me a pneumonia shot about 5 years ago. I am 68 years old and my COPD has been stable for the past few years. Each year I get the flu shot and walk almost every day when the weather is good. On bad weather days, I walk on my treadmill in the basement. What do you think about the new pneumonia shot? Should I get it? Phil from Evansville, IN Dear Phil: Your question brings up a confusing topic for both patients and health care professionals. Streptococcus pneumonia is a bacteria that causes thousands of cases of bloodstream infections and pneumonia each year in the United States. This bacteria is also called pneumococcus. Although the peumococcal vaccine is very good at preventing severe disease, hospitalization, and death, it is not guaranteed to prevent infection and symptoms in all people. Also, remember that there are many different bacteria and viruses that can cause pneumonia. The new pneumonia vaccine is called pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (abbreviated as PCV13; brand name is Prevnar 13®) and protects against 13 types, or strains, of pneumococcal bacteria. The older pneumonia vaccine is called pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (abbreviated as PPSV23; brand name is Pneumovax®) and protects against 23 types, of strains, of pneumococcal bacteria. Here are the recommendations for the two pneumococcal vaccines according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: > PPSV23 is recommended for all adults 65 years and older and for adults 19 through 64 years of age who are at high risk for pneumococcal infection including those who have COPD. > PCV13 (the newer vaccine) is recommended for all adults 65 years of age or older whether you have COPD or not. Those who have not previously received PPSV23 should receive a dose of PCV13 first, followed 6 to 12 months later by a dose of PPSV23. If you have already received one or more doses of PPSV23, the dose of PCV13 should be given at least one year after you got your most recent dose of PPSV23 You should not receive either pneumococcal vaccine if you had a severe allergic reaction after a previous dose or to a vaccine component. Phil – since you received the PPSV23 vaccine about 5 years ago, you should ask your doctor about the getting the PCV13 vaccine for greater protection against the pneumococcal bacteria. Sincerely, Donald A. Mahler, M.D.

Donald A. Mahler, M.D. is Emeritus Professor of Medicine at Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in Hanover, New Hampshire. He works as a pulmonary physician at Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont, NH, where he is Director of Respiratory Services.