We are in the midst of the flu season. Having the flu increases your risk of getting pneumococcal disease. Pneumococcal disease is caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, also known as pneumococcus. In the US, each year, thousands of people die and thousands get hospitalized due to pneumococcal disease. It can cause severe infections of the lungs (pneumonia), bloodstream (bacteremia), and lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis).
Two vaccines help prevent pneumococcal disease:
- PCV or PCV13 = Pneumococcal Conjugate vaccine (Prevnar 13®). It prevents pneumococcal disease caused by 13 serotypes of the bacteria.
Prevnar 13® is a vaccine approved for adults 18 years of age and older.
- PPSV or PPSV23 = Pneumococcal Polysaccharide vaccine (Pneumovax® 23). It prevents pneumococcal disease caused by 23 serotypes of the bacteria.
PNEUMOVAX 23 is approved for use in persons 50 years of age or older and persons aged ≥2 years who are at increased risk for pneumococcal disease.
You are a high risk for pneumococcal disease if,
- You are 65 or older.
- If you are between 19 and 64 years of age with chronic medical problems of heart, lung, liver, kidney, diabetes, and alcoholism. Also, if you have a weak immune system (HIV/AIDS, cancer, or damaged/absent spleen). You are a high risk if you have a cochlear implant, cerebrospinal (CSF) leak or if you smoke.
You can get either pneumococcal vaccine (but not both) when you get the influenza (flu) vaccine.
The 2 vaccines (Prevnar 13® and Pneumovax® 23) should not be coadministered.
If you’re at increased risk for pneumococcal disease, talk to your healthcare provider about which pneumococcal vaccines you need and when.
Be proactive, vaccinate yourself and beat the pneumococcal disease!
Disclaimer: The information is intended to provide general education for patients and their families. The information provided does not constitute medical or health care advice for any individual and is not a substitute for medical and other professional advice.
Dr. Mahesh Ochaney is a solo practitioner who has been practicing Internal Medicine since 1991. Dr. Ochaney’s compassionate primary care has been recognized several times over the years, including being named a 2018 Top Doctor by Baltimore Magazine and receiving a State of Maryland Governor’s Citation.