Nurse giving patient a shot in the arm

Did you know there are two pneumonia vaccines? Pneumococcal vaccines help prevent infections caused by Streptococcus pneumonia bacteria. In older adults, this disease can cause serious illness or even death.

Each year in the United States, pneumococcal disease kills thousands of adults. Thousands more end up in the hospital because of pneumococcal disease. It can cause severe infections of the lungs (pneumonia), bloodstream (bacteremia) and lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis). Pneumococcal bacteria is spread from person to person through coughing, sneezing and close contact. People can carry the bacteria in their nose and throat without being sick and spread the bacteria to others.

Vaccines are the best way to prevent pneumococcal disease.

The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recently voted on new recommendations for pneumococcal vaccinations for adults.

As a person who is 65 years or older, it is no longer recommended that you receive the Pneumococcal conjugate (PCV13 or Prevnar 13) vaccine, unless you have an immunocompromising condition, such as chronic renal failure, leukemia, lymphoma or no longer have a functioning spleen. It is recommended that all persons 65 or older receive the pneumococcal polysaccharide (PPSV23 or Pneumovax23) vaccine.

The CDC recommends against getting PCV13 and PPSV23 at the same time. If you need both vaccines, get PCV13 first, followed by a dose of PPSV23 at another visit. Talk with your healthcare professional to find out when you should come back for the second vaccine. If you have a chronic medical condition, such as chronic heart failure, lung or liver disease, diabetes, alcoholism or are a cigarette smoker, it is recommended that you receive the PPSV23 between the ages of 19 and 64.

Pneumococcal vaccines may be available at private doctor offices, public or community health clinics or pharmacies. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to see if they offer pneumococcal vaccines. Use the Adult Vaccine Finder to help find places that provide pneumococcal vaccines near you.

More information on the two types of pneumococcal vaccines can be found here.

For Medicare beneficiaries, Medicare Part B covers both of the pneumococcal shots. This short video provides information on Medicare and vaccines.

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