Everyone knows that pneumonia is a dangerous disease, and can cause major complications, if not treated early. According to statistics, around 450 million people across the globe develop this condition every year. The number of pneumonia deaths have come down drastically, due to proper treatment and timely vaccination. However, it is still one of the leading causes of death, in many developing countries.
Types of Pneumonia Shots
Pneumococcal vaccines are effective in preventing pneumonia that can be caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae
bacteria. There are two types of pneumococcal vaccines - pneumococcal conjugate vaccine [PCV13 or PCV (brand name: Prevnar 13®)] and pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine [PPSV23 or PPV (brand name: Pneumovax®)]. Even flu shots may prevent pneumonia to a certain extent, as the disease often develops from flu.
PCV13 is effective against 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria, whereas PPSV23 prevents pneumonia that can be caused by 23 types of bacteria. Both these vaccines are given to infants, adults, and elderly. However, there is a proper schedule for administration of pneumococcal vaccines. Scheduling of vaccines is determined by the ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices), a wing of CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
Who Needs PCV13 and When?
Kids - Below 2 Years
: Infants in this age group are given PCV13, as a series of four doses - one dose each at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, and 12 to 15 months. In case you miss this vaccination, it can be taken at a later stage. Consult your pediatrician, who is the best person to guide you in this matter.
Kids - 2 to 5 Years
: One dose of PCV13 must be administered to those healthy children, who have missed the shot, or have not completed the series. This dose must be taken within 2 to 4 years. One or two doses of PCV13 must be given to immunocompromised kids (with certain medical conditions*
), if they have not taken or completed the 4-dose series within the age of two. They must get it done before 5 years of age.
Sickle cell disease; a damaged spleen or no spleen; cochlear implant(s); cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaks; HIV/AIDS; or other diseases that affect the immune system (such as diabetes, cancer, or liver disease); chronic heart or lung disease; children who take medications that affect the immune system, such as chemotherapy or steroids.]
Kids and Teenagers - 6 to 18 Years
: Children (in this age group) with the medical conditions listed above, must be given a single dose of PCV13, if they have not received the shot previously. The vaccine has to be administered, even though they have taken PCV7 (the earlier version that was replaced by PCV13) or PPSV23 previously.
Adults - Above 19 years
- PCV13, PPSV23, and meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV-4) should not be given at the same time.
- In case a child is required to take both pneumonia shots, he/she has to complete PCV13 series, and wait for at least two months before taking PPSV23. There must be a minimum two-month gap between the last dose of PCV13 and PPSV23.
- If a child has a damaged spleen or no spleen, he/she must complete the PCV13 series, before taking meningococcal conjugate vaccine.
: Adults in this age group must take a dose of PCV13:
Elderly - Above 65 years
- if they have not received any pneumococcal vaccine earlier, and if they have immunocompromising conditions, listed above. Other such medical conditions include functional or anatomic asplenia, congenital or acquired immunodeficiencies, chronic renal failure, nephrotic syndrome, leukemia, Hodgkin disease, generalized malignancy, long-term immunosuppressive therapy, solid organ transplant, and multiple myeloma. Apart from PCV13, they must get the recommended dose(s) of PPSV23 too.
- even if they have taken one or multiple doses of PPSV23 earlier;and if they have any of the medical conditions listed above. In that case, they can continue with the remaining doses of PPSV23, after they take the single dose of PCV13.
: Those in this age group can be given a single dose of PCV13, if they have not received the vaccine earlier. This vaccine can be followed with a single dose of PPSV23 that has to be administered after 6 to 12 months from the date on which the last PCV13 dose was taken. If a person has already taken one or multiple doses of PPSV23, PCV13 must be given one year after the date on which the last PPSV23 shot was taken.
Who Needs PPSV23 and When?
Kids and Adults - 2 to 64 years
: People in this age group need to take this vaccine, as per the recommendations of their physician, if:
Adults - 19 to 64 years
- they have long-term health problems such as heart disease, lung disease, sickle cell disease, diabetes, alcoholism, cirrhosis, leaks of cerebrospinal fluid, cochlear implant, etc.
- they have certain medical conditions that make them less resistant to infections. Such medical conditions include Hodgkin's disease, lymphoma or leukemia, kidney failure, multiple myeloma, nephrotic syndrome, HIV/AIDS; damaged spleen or no spleen, organ transplant, etc.
- they are taking certain drugs or treatment that affects their immunity in a negative way, and makes them less resistant to infections (like radiation therapy, use of steroids and cancer drugs).
: Those in this age group must take this vaccine, if they are smokers, or if they have asthma.
Elderly - Above 65 years
: All people who fall in this age group need to take PPSV23.
PPSV23 is also needed by those who live in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
How Often is PPSV23 Given?
Some adults need to take three lifetime doses of PPSV23. The first two doses are to be taken before the age of 65. The third dose is given after 65 years. There must be a minimum gap of five years between these doses. Apart from that, a dose of PCV13 is recommended before taking last PPSV23 shot, after the age of 65 years. In that case, PPSV23 must be taken after six months to one year from the date on which PCV13 was taken.
Who Should not Take Pneumonia Shots?
Kids who are allergic to an earlier pneumonia shot must not take subsequent PCV13 or PPSV23 shots. Those who are allergic to the components of these vaccines must avoid taking it. Those who are allergic to vaccines containing diphtheria toxoid, should not take PCV13. Avoid these vaccines, if you are ill. It can be taken after recovering from the illness. Even pregnant women must avoid pneumonia shots, even though there are no reports of complications. Mild reactions like redness, minor swelling, muscle ache, mild fever, etc., are common after taking pneumonia shots. Kids may develop drowsiness and loss of appetite after taking PSV13 shot. Though serious side effects are very rare, immediate medical attention must be sought if such reactions occur.
* Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
According to statistics, pneumococcal vaccines are very effective in preventing the infection to a large extent. However, keep in mind that these vaccines are effective only against some bacteria strains. But routine vaccination has reduced the rate of pneumonia infections, because these bacteria strains are among the most common causal agents of the disease. It has been seen that the risk of getting pneumonia goes up significantly after the fifth decade of life. This is because the body's immunity slowly starts to falter at this age and the lungs become more susceptible to diseases. This is the reason why the vaccine is recommended for people above the age of 65 years. Even babies (especially those in day care facilities) have a weak immune system, and so they need to take pneumonia shots.
: This article is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.