By Justin Peng, MD, FACR
Pneumococcal infections, including pneumonia, are a leading cause of hospitalizations, morbidity and mortality here in the U.S. There are many different types of pneumococci, but the most commonly identified cause of pneumonia hospitalizations in the U.S. is the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae, also called pneumococcus. Vaccination against these organisms reduces the number of cases that occur and lessens the severity of the disease when it does occur.
What are the kinds of Pneumonia Vaccines?
There are two pneumococcal vaccines licensed for use in the U.S. by the FDA.
1) Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23 or Pneumovax23®) was first marketed in 1970s to protect against 14 pneumococcal serotypes. In 1983 it was modified to protect against 23 serotypes.
2) Pneumococcal conjugate (PCV13 or Prevnar13®) was first marketed in 2000 as PCV7 to protect against 7 pneumococcal serotypes most common in young children. In 2010 it was replaced by PCV13 and now protects against 13 serotypes.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends pneumococcal vaccination for all babies and children younger than 2 years old and all adults 65 years or older. In certain situations, other children and adults should receive one or both pneumococcal vaccines.
What are the Risks and Benefits?
• Side effects are usually mild and may include redness, swelling, pain or tenderness at injection site, fever, loss of appetite, irritability, feeling tired, headache, chills. If symptoms occur, they are usually self-limited and resolve in a few days.
• Both pneumococcal vaccines are safe to have during pregnancy, but should be given prior to pregnancy if possible.
Coadministration of PPSV23 and the herpes zoster (shingles) vaccine does not alter the immune response to PPSV23, although such coadministration may reduce the immune response of zoster vaccine. Consider administration of the 2 vaccines separated by 4 weeks.
Pneumococcal Vaccines help to reduce the number of cases of pneumonia and lessen the severity of pneumonia when it does occur. All those over the age of 65, and many others (with certain medical conditions listed above) would benefit from one or both of these pneumococcal vaccines.
For those who are immunocompromised including those on biologi medicines, both PCV13 and PPSV23 are recommended. Feel free to ask your Rheumatologist or healthcare provider to discuss whether these vaccines are recommended for you.
Learn more about Dr. Justin Peng and vaccines by visiting WashingtonArthritis.com