The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), based on the recommendation made by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is recommending an additional pneumococcal vaccine for all seniors aged 65 and older. People of the age of 50 and older have taken comfort in the existing vaccinations to fight pneumonia for years, but an additional pneumococcal vaccine called Prevnar 13 is recommended for all seniors aged 65 and older.
For adults 65 and older who have not had any previous pneumococcal vaccine or whose history of vaccinations is unknown, a dose of Prevnar 13 is recommended. Furthermore, physicians are advised to recommend a dose of Pneumovax for their patients six to twelve months after their Prevnar 13 vaccination. Another aspect of this new recommendations from the Advisory Committee says that if a patient 65 or older has received one or more does of Pneumovax, but no previous Prevnar 13 vaccination, the patient should receive a dose of Prevnar 13 vaccination at least one year after the most recent dose of Pneumovax. Prevnar 13 is a product of Pfizer, Inc. and Pneumovax is a product of Merck.
Why the new recommendation? Pfizer conducted a trial in the Netherlands among 85,000 participants 65 and older. Half of the group received the Prevnar 13 vaccination and the other half received a placebo. In the vaccine group, about 45% had fewer first episodes of vaccine-type pneumonia compared to the placebo group. And, there was a 75% reduction in vaccine-type invasive pneumococcal disease in the vaccine group. This evidence demonstrated how Prevnar 13 decreases risk of serious illness from pneumonia which prompted the recommendation from the Advisory Committee.
Elderly patients are about three times more likely to get pneumonia over the age of 65 than those aged 50 to 64. If you have not had pneumonia, you probably know someone who has. It can be very serious and possibly fatal. Pneumococcal pneumonia is an illness caused by the type of bacteria called Streptococcus pneumonia and can be carried in the throats of up to 70% of healthy people. Most pneumonia deaths in the U.S. are in senior adults. Yet there are about 70 million adults a highest risk which are unvaccinated leaving them very vulnerable. If you are at risk, vaccination is the safest, most effective way to protect yourself.