Flu Syndrome and Pneumonia: How Vaccine Guidelines Have Changed

James Thompson, MD Health Pro
  • As flu season rapidly approaches, doctors continue to urge patients to get a flu shot. The flu vaccine represents the best defense against the flu syndrome. For those who require further protection against respiratory infections, particularly pneumonia, other vaccines are available. A significant percentage of people who experience severe flu syndrome endure complications of pneumonia, which can be fatal.


    It’s enough to suffer from the muscle aches, fever, sore throat and headache, only then to be hit with the cough, shortness of breath and chest pain that may signal pneumonia.


    Patients 19 years or older who have asthma and certain other chronic diseases are recommended to get a pneumonia vaccine. For years doctors have advised patients to get the Pneumovax every 5 years in order to maintain a good defense against pneumonia. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) changed their recommendations on how often and when to vaccinate for pneumonia, as well as what vaccines to give.

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    Current recommendations:

    Prevnar 13 (P13) is a pneumonia vaccine that protects against 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria and is recommended for infants and young children. See the links below for the full vaccination schedule for children and adults.


    P13 is recommended for adults 19 years or older who have a disease that weakens the immune system. These include HIV infection, leukemia, lymphoma, organ transplant and severe kidney disease. One dose of P13 is recommended for all adults 65 years or older. For adults under 65 who have already had the Pneumovax vaccine, P13 should be given one or more years from the last Pneumovax injection.


    The Pneumovax vaccine (P23) has been around for several years and protects against 23 different types of pneumococcal strains. Repeating vaccinations with this formulation every five years, multiple times, is no longer recommended. 


    CDC recommendations

    P23 is recommended for adults who have chronic respiratory diseases that include asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, kidney disease, diabetes, anemia and many other chronic disorders. All people age 65 or older are recommended to have one injection of P23. If you also are due for P13, you should have that first, followed a minimum of eight weeks later by P23. Both would only be one-time doses.

    If an adult is 65 years or older and previously had a P23 vaccination, they may get the P13 vaccine as long as it has been a year or longer since getting P23 (as stated above). If the adult aged 65+ years has previously had a P13 vaccination, P23 may be given if it has been eight or more weeks.


    If an adult has reached 65 years old and received the P23 vaccine more than five years ago, he/she should first get P13 (if not previously vaccinated) followed eight weeks later by P23


    Who should get revaccinated with P23?

    People younger than 65 who have chronic respiratory problems or other listed medical conditions may get one repeat vaccination with P23 if five years have passed since the last vaccination.


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    If a repeat vaccination of P23 was given before age 65, another P23 vaccination should be given at 65 or five years from the last P23 vaccination. Again, no more than one revaccination of P23 is needed for those who are age 19 to 65 years old.


    Was this confusing? Don’t worry. It took a while for me to figure it all out. Your doctor will guide you through the process, but at least you will have a head start on understanding the new guidelines. They were changed in order to better immunize against these common agents (pneumococcal bacteria) of respiratory infections.



    Vaccine schedule for children

    Vaccine Schedule for adults


Published On: November 30, 2014