There have been a number of questions and some confusion among patients and physicians concerning the latest advance in pneumococcal pneumonia protection, commonly referred to as the “Pneumonia Vaccine”. Physicians have been prescribing and administering a vaccine that provides protection against 23 strains of the most common bacterial pneumonia, specifically pneumococcal pneumonia, for years. A new vaccine against 13 other strains of the bacteria is now available.

Recommendations for the use of this new vaccine have now been published. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, thru their Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, recommends that all adults 65 years of age or older, who have never gotten vaccinated, should receive the new 13 strain vaccine (PVC13) and then get a dose of the 23 strain vaccine (PPSV23) 6 to 12 months later. Adults who have only received PPSV23 should get the PVC13. If this all sounds confusing, couple it with the fact that many patients do not remember if they have received any vaccine. Keep in mind patients younger than 65 may benefit from the vaccine, especially if they are at increased risk for developing pneumonia or at risk for serious consequences if they should get pneumonia. Preventing a serious illness is much better than a long hospitalization with the attendant complications and expense. Lastly, while we are on the subject of expense, the new PVC13 is considerably more expensive than the 23 strain variety. Some offices and some insurance may not cover this new expense. Be sure to check before receiving this new vaccine.