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Why is it important for seniors to get a pneumococcal vaccine?

Dr. Aruna V. Josyula, MD
Geriatric Medicine Specialist

Pneumococcal bacteria can cause many types of illnesses, including pneumonia, ear infections, meningitis and bloodstream infection (sepsis). Vaccines can prevent pneumococcal disease in children and adults. About one million U.S. adults get pneumococcal pneumonia every year, and 5 to 7 percent will die from it. Fewer will get pneumococcal meningitis or sepsis, but the mortality rate in this group is higher. The vaccine reduces the risk of infection as well as the severity of the illness. It is now recommended that adults age 65 years and older get both the Pneumovax 23 (PPSV23) and Prevnar 13 (PCV13) vaccines to protect against pneumonia.

These vaccines are both given as one-time doses with some exceptions for certain people. In most adults, the vaccines should be given at least a year apart. If one has never received any pneumococcal vaccine, then it is recommended that that first vaccine be the PCV13 followed a year later by the PPSV23.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.