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Pneumococcal Vaccine

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Who Should Get the Pneumococcal Vaccine and When Should It Be Given?

The PCV7 vaccine that covered seven strains of pneumococcal bacteria, has now been updated to the PCV13 vaccine which covers 13 strains. A PCV series begun with PCV7 should be completed with PCV13. A single additional dose of PCV13 is recommended for all children 14–59 months who have received an age-appropriate series of PCV7 and for all children 60–71 months with underlying specific medical conditions who have received an age-appropriate series of PCV7.

The PCV vaccine is recommended for the following children:

  • All infants younger than 24 months of age should receive four doses of the vaccine, the first one at 2 months of age. The next two shots should be given at 4 months and 6 months with a final booster that should be given at 12 to 15 months. Children who do not get their shot at these times should still get the vaccine. The number of doses and time between doses will depend on the child's age.
  • Healthy children 2 through 4 years of age who did not complete the four doses should receive one dose of the vaccine.

The PPSV vaccine is recommended for all adults 65 years or older. It is also recommended for any adult aged 19 through 64 who smokes or has asthma and anyone 2 through 64 who is taking a drug or treatment that affects the body's immune system. Examples would be long-term use of steroids, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.

In addition, anyone ages 2 through 64 who has one of the following (or similar) health conditions that affect the immune system should be vaccinated with PPSV:

  • Hodgkin's disease
  • lymphoma or leukemia
  • kidney failure
  • multiple myeloma
  • nephrotic syndrome
  • HIV infection or AIDS
  • damaged spleen or no spleen
  • organ transplant
  • heart disease
  • lung disease
  • sickle cell disease
  • diabetes
  • alcoholism
  • cirrhosis
  • leaks of cerebrospinal fluid
  • cochlear implant

Adults who are 65 or older only need to be vaccinated once in a lifetime unless they are at high risk for infection. Those who are at high risk and those who were vaccinated before the age of 65 may need to be revaccinated five years after the first dose.

How Important Is It for an Adult Over 65 to Get the PPSV Vaccine?

It's very important. If you are over 65 or have an underlying medical condition that puts you at risk and have not had a pneumococcal vaccination, talk to your doctor and ask to schedule one. According to the National Foundation for Infectious Disease, bacteremia and meningitis caused by invasive pneumococcal disease "is responsible for the highest rates of death among the elderly and patients who have underlying medical conditions."

A lot of people who could be are not protected against pneumococcal disease. The public health goal established by the U.S. government in Healthy People 2010 is that 90% of adults 65 and older would be vaccinated. Yet in 2008, the CDC reported that more than one-third of the adults 65 and over had never received the vaccine and that vaccination rates were lowest among groups who most needed it -- people with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, kidney disease, and heart disease.

Making sure you and your children get the pneumococcal vaccine can save lives.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Renee A. Alli, MD on May 25, 2012

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