The two-part pneumonia vaccine for senior citizens is no longer necessary, says the Centers for Disease Prevention (CDC). This is startling news as pneumonia in seniors, 65 years old and older, can sometimes have serious and even deadly consequences.
Pneumonia occurs when bacteria enter the lungs and get lodged there. Indeed the seriousness of this disease is highlighted by the 2014 stats which show 3000 reported deaths from invasive pneumococcal disease. 2014 is the latest reported year for which the CDC has data.
Pneumonia Vaccine: CDC History On This Disease
The CDC has long recommended that seniors get the best protection against pneumonia. Specifically, they recommended that all adults 65 and older should receive two pneumonia vaccines: Prevnar 13, and Pneumovax at a later, second doctor’s visit.
However, as of last week, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), a group of medical and public health experts, suggested that the vaccinations be made voluntary on the part of seniors and their doctors. The CDC will typically accept the ACIP recommendations
The question is — why the sudden shift?
A big reason, says Dr. William Schaffner, Of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, is that in 2010, Prevnar 13 was a vaccination campaign among children that succeeded in stopping the spread of bacteria to older age groups.
The Prevnar 13 has been tremendously effective — dramatically lowering pneumonia by 80%. Not only are children protected, but also, the vaccine indirectly protects adults by reducing their exposure to pneumonia bacteria.
Nevertheless, the CDC still strongly recommends that seniors over 65 who are high risk, get vaccinated. Both Prevnar 13 and Pneumovax should be given.
Pneumonia Vaccine: Which Seniors Should Still Take It?
The CDC recommends that seniors suffering diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, or smoke should get both vaccines — as they are high risk. Just follow the injection schedule: a shot of Prevnar 13, followed by Pneumovax one year later.
However, if you are 65 years of age, or older and healthy, there is no immediate need to get vaccinated. Schedule at least two wellness check ups per year and consult with your doctor, if vaccination is necessary.