The “Pneumonia” Shot

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The “Pneumonia” Shot

Jan 16, 2015

For years it's been recommended that everyone 65 and over get the one-time "pneumonia" shot (Pneumovax, or PPSV23). Pneumovax helps to prevent invasive, and deadly, complications of pneumococcal pneumonia, the most common kind of pneumonia. Unfortunately, it didn't have much benefit in preventing pneumococcal pneumonia itself. However, a new vaccine called Prevnar 13 (PCV13) does significantly prevent pneumococcal pneumonia. This should greatly reduce pneumonia in the senior population.

The current recommendation is that everyone over 65 receive two pneumococcal vaccinations. First, at 65 or older, Prevnar 13, followed in 6-12 months by Pneumovax. If the person has already had Pneumovax after the age of 65, they should just get Prevnar 13 (at least a year after the Pneumovax). If the person had Pneumovax before 65, they should wait several years, then get Prevnar 13 followed by a second Pneumovax (but making sure the second Pneumovax is at least five years after the first Pneumovax and one year after the Prevnar 13).

This means that everyone over 65-70 should have at least two pneumococcal vaccinations and maybe three, depending on their age when they received the first Pneumovax. This is complicated but should result in a substantial health benefit. Seniors should expect their primary care doctor to be order these vaccinations for them. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask your doctor.

The other vaccinations everyone should have are Zostavax (shingles shot) one-time (but not if you have problems with your immune system), and tetanus every 10 years, with one of these being Tdap — tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis. And, of course, influenza vaccinations every year are a must.

Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and vaccinations are one of the best forms of prevention.

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