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Should You Get a Second Pneumonia Vaccine this Year?

Older woman considering a second pneumonia vaccineFor years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that seniors (individuals over 65 years old) get vaccinated against pneumonia each year. This may change now that an influential panel of U.S. health advisors is suggesting that seniors get a second pneumonia vaccine following the traditional shot.

The panel, which directly advises the CDC, voted last month in favor of recommending the new vaccine (Prevnar 13) to seniors in addition to the older Pneumovax 23. Their recommendations also include specific instructions for time intervals between the vaccinations. The CDC has yet to make an official recommendation.

Stats for Pneumococcal Pneumonia

It’s estimated that about 900,000 Americans contract pneumococcal pneumonia every year. This common lung infection can cause coughing, severe fever, and even chest pain (you can see a full list of pneumonia symptoms here). At least 45,000 people succumb to pneumonia each year– most are adult patients. Infections are primarily treated with antibiotics, but many several strains of bacteria have become resistant.

(If you haven’t been vaccinated this year, you may qualify for our new pneumonia vaccine clinical trial here in Birmingham, AL.)

Studies have shown that older adults, and those who have been diagnosed with chronic illnesses like kidney disease and diabetes, are at increased risk of contracting pneumonia. These patients all have weaker or inhibited immune systems.

The traditional pneumonia vaccine which has been administered to seniors protects against strains of bacteria known to cause pneumonia and other serious infections like meningitis. The second vaccination (Prevnar 13) has been administered to children regularly since 2010.

No Coverage for that Second Vaccination

There is one significant issue with this recommendation– Medicare only offers coverage for one pneumonia vaccine for every senior citizen. This means no reimbursements for those adults who actually get that second vaccination. Health officials have stated that Medicare would have to consider altering this rule, but the process could take another year.

(Quick Fact: One dose of Prevnar 13 costs about $135 compared to $68 for one dose of Pneumovax 23.)

In addition to pneumonia, the same strains of bacteria can also cause:

  • Meningitis – This infection causes inflammation in the brain and spinal cord.
  • Bacteremia – An infection of the bloodstream.
  • These infections result in more than 5,000 deaths per year.

These new vaccination guidelines are just a part of an ongoing campaign orchestrated by public-health officials and vaccine manufacturers to encourage more adults to get routine shots. The CDC has also been asking more Americans to get their seasonal flu vaccines, and more seniors are being urged to get a shot for shingles.

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