Prevent Pneumonia – Get Vaccinated!


Shah headshotKrupa Shah, MD, MPH
Assistant Professor
University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry

Most people are aware of the flu vaccine. Fewer know that there is another important vaccine available – to prevent pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection and inflammation of the lungs. There is a high rate of sickness, hospitalization, and death associated with pneumonia in older adults who are 65 years old or above.

We’ve reviewed how to prevent pneumonia before, but here is some more information on why older adults should consider getting vaccinated as a way to prevent pneumonia.

Vaccines to prevent pneumonia are called pneumococcal vaccines. These vaccines can prevent or reduce the severity of pneumococcal pneumonia, a very common cause of bacterial pneumonia.

Two types of pneumococcal vaccines are currently available to prevent pneumonia in older adults.

  • Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV13 or Prevnar 13®) and
  • Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine (PPSV23 or Pneumovax®)

Some history will help understand our current guidance. Previously, only the PPSV23 was recommended for adults 65 years and older to prevent pneumonia. This guidance changed recently. In August 2014, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices decided to add the PCV13 to the routine immunization schedule for adults 65 years and older. The change in guidance was made because research showed that adding the PCV13 may offer greater protection for older adults against pneumonia.

Bottom Line – the new vaccination schedule for pneumonia: Adults 65 years and older should receive both PCV13 and PPSV23, but not at the same time.

  • If you have not received any pneumococcal vaccine, then you should first receive PCV13 and then PPSV23 one year later.
  • If you have already received PPSV23, the dose of PCV13 should be given at least 1 year after you got your most recent dose of PPSV23.

Make sure to ask your healthcare professional about getting vaccinated for pneumonia!

6 thoughts on “Prevent Pneumonia – Get Vaccinated!

  1. Thanks for the clarification, I thought that patients were covered just fine by the PPSV23. I guess I’m going to have to go back around and get everyone done again, by one or the other! Do you know if Medicare will cover both immunizations? I would think so, but I am curious if anyone has experience with this.

    • I just wanted to know how often you should receive the pneumonia vaccine, how long is the initial pneumonia vaccine activated.

  2. Currently, Medicare only pays for one dose of pneumococcal vaccine for patients older than 65 [1].

    Medicare will have to take into account the new ACIP recommendation and possibly allow for two pneumococcal vaccines for older adults. However, Medicare is not able to take it into account until at least early 2016. If someone over 65 is still carried under traditional insurance instead of being enrolled in Medicare, that second pneumococcal vaccine is typically more easily covered since traditional insurers are required to adhere to ACIP guidelines in a much shorter time frame than Medicare.


    Krupa Shah, MD

  3. Could you please direct me to the clinical guidelines for prevention of pneumonia and influenza recommendations. Also what do you do when you have a PCP who discourages a 70 plus patient with hx of smoking and cough and frequent illness, from getting pneumonia vaccine? Are they not required to practice with in the guidelines?

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