Older Adults May Need This Vaccine

Pneumococcal immunizations with PCV13 vaccine recommended for older adults

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Vaccines and booster shots are often associated with kids, but they may be crucial for adults' health, too.

An expert panel released new guidelines on pneumococcal vaccines, adding a new immunization to the list for adults older than 65.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recently released its 2015 guidelines for adult vaccinations. This year's guidelines had one major change — a change suggesting vaccines for pneumococcal diseases among older adults.

Common bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae can cause pneumococcal disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these bacteria can cause a range of illnesses, such as ear and sinus infections and pneumonia.

Invasive pneumococcal disease is a serious infection that can spread through the body. It can involve meningitis (an infection of tissue surrounding the brain and spinal cord) and bacteremia (an infection of the blood stream).

Invasive pneumococcal disease can be life-threatening. However, vaccines may protect against it.

This PCV13 vaccine, or 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, sold under the brand name Prevnar 13, works to protect the body against 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria, the CDC reports.

This vaccine is often given to young children and infants, but in the new guidelines, the ACIP said all adults age 65 and older should receive the vaccine as well. The PCV13 vaccine is also recommended for adults older than 19 who have weakened immune systems.

In an editorial about these new recommendations, Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, MD, of Emory University in Atlanta, explained that rates of invasive pneumococcal disease are almost 10 times higher among adults age 65 and older than among adults between the ages 18 and 34.

It was previously recommended that adults age 65 and older receive only the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23, sold under the brand name Pneumovax), which protects against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria. The hope is that the use of both vaccines will protect older adults against pneumococcal disease even more.

Adults should discuss how and when to receive these vaccines with their doctors. The ACIP stressed that pneumococcal vaccines should be assessed patient-by-patient.

These guidelines were published Feb. 2 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services chooses the members of the ACIP. The secretary, along with the CDC director, approves of ACIP guidelines before they are released.

Review Date: 
February 1, 2015
Last Updated:
February 5, 2015