Data Max


Vaccinations Against Pneumonia for Those 65 or Older

Table of Contents

As we age, our immune system weakens, making us more prone to infections. One such infection is pneumonia, which can have serious consequences, especially in individuals aged 65 and above. Pneumonia is a respiratory infection that can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi and can lead to hospitalization and even death.

Fortunately, there are two vaccines available that can protect against pneumococcal infections - PPSV23 and PCV13. These vaccines can significantly reduce the risk of developing pneumococcal infections, hospitalizations, and death.

It is essential for adults aged 65 and above to understand the significance of receiving two vaccinations against pneumonia. Doing so can prevent the adverse consequences and associated risks that come with pneumonia infections. We will delve further into the topic of pneumococcal vaccines and highlight their importance for older adults in this article.

Understanding Pneumonia

Pneumonia is a respiratory infection affecting the lungs that can lead to mild to severe illness in people of all ages. It is a prevalent illness that can be deadly for older adults and those with weakened immune systems. Pneumonia is not contagious but can be contracted when bacteria, viruses, or fungi enter the lungs.

The causes of pneumonia can vary, but bacterial pneumonia is the most common type of pneumonia in older adults. Risk factors that make older adults more likely to get pneumonia include chronic lung diseases such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a weakened immune system, smoking, asthma, and exposure to environmental pollutants.

Symptoms of pneumonia include coughing, fever, sweating, shaking chills, shortness of breath, rapid breathing, chest pain, fatigue, and confusion. Seniors may also have a lesser appetite, a decline in mental function and may experience a fall. Early diagnosis of pneumonia is essential for timely treatment.

Pneumonia can lead to other serious health conditions such as sepsis, respiratory failure, or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). It is crucial to take measures to avoid getting pneumonia, especially for older adults and those with underlying conditions. Vaccination and understanding risk factors are among them.

The Two Pneumococcal Vaccines

Pneumococcal vaccines are used to prevent pneumococcal disease, caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae. There are two types of pneumococcal vaccines, which are recommended for older adults: PPSV23 and PCV13.

PPSV23 vaccine is a pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine, which was introduced in 1983. It contains purified capsular polysaccharides from 23 serotypes of S. pneumoniae. The vaccine is given as an injection, and it stimulates the immune system to create antibodies to help fight pneumococcal bacteria.

PCV13 is a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, developed in 2009. It includes 13 serotypes, which are the most common that cause pneumococcal disease. The vaccine works by combining the polysaccharides from the 13 serotypes with a protein, which makes the vaccine more effective in creating antibodies.

Both vaccines work by boosting the body's immune system to fight against pneumococcal bacteria when they enter the body. They are highly recommended for adults aged 65 and above, as they protect against pneumococcal diseases, such as pneumonia, meningitis, and sepsis.

It's important to note that the pneumococcal vaccines don't provide immediate protection against pneumococcal disease. Instead, it takes several weeks after receiving the vaccine for the body to build up immunity. Therefore, it's essential to get vaccinated before an infection occurs.

Benefits of Getting Vaccinated

Getting vaccinated against pneumonia is crucial for older adults aged 65 and above. Here are three key benefits of receiving two vaccinations against pneumonia.

Protection against pneumonia

One of the most significant benefits of the pneumococcal vaccines is that they protect against pneumonia. Pneumonia is a severe illness that affects older adults more commonly than younger people. It involves inflammation in the lungs, causing symptoms such as fever, coughing, and difficulty breathing. Pneumococcal vaccines can protect against pneumococcal disease, which is the leading cause of pneumonia.

Reduction in the risk of death from pneumonia

Pneumonia can be fatal for some people, particularly older adults and those with weakened immune systems. The pneumococcal vaccines can help to reduce the risk of death from pneumonia. By getting vaccinated, you are protecting yourself against the most common causes of bacterial pneumonia and preventing potential complications.

Prevention of bacterial infections

Pneumococcal vaccines protect against bacterial infections, which can lead to other illnesses and complications. In addition to pneumonia, bacterial infections can also cause meningitis, bacteremia, and other invasive diseases. By preventing bacterial infections, the vaccines also help to reduce healthcare costs and the burden on our healthcare system.

Who Should Get Vaccinated?

As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all adults aged 65 or older should receive vaccinations against pneumonia. The two pneumococcal vaccines, the PPSV23, and the PCV13, are recommended for older adults who have not been vaccinated previously or have an unknown vaccination history.

Additionally, CDC recommends vaccination for older adults with specific health conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, liver disease, alcoholism, and diabetes. These conditions make older adults more vulnerable to pneumonia, making vaccination crucial to their overall health and well-being.

It is vital to note, however, that healthcare providers should oversee these vaccinations, considering the patient's age, health status, and any allergic reactions to previous vaccinations. Older adults who have an allergic reaction to any vaccine's ingredients should discuss their concerns with their healthcare providers before getting vaccinated.

Furthermore, healthcare providers must adequately inform patients about the risks and benefits of vaccinations and help them make informed decisions about their overall health and well-being. Older adults and their caregivers should also understand that vaccination is not a one-time event, and booster shots are necessary.


What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection that inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs. These air sacs may fill with fluid or pus, causing cough with phlegm, fever, and difficulty breathing.

How can older adults protect themselves from pneumonia?

Older adults can protect themselves from pneumonia by getting vaccinated, avoiding exposure to infections, and maintaining overall good health.

What are the two pneumococcal vaccines?

The two pneumococcal vaccines are PPSV23 and PCV13. PPSV23 is recommended for all adults aged 65 and older, while PCV13 is recommended for adults aged 65 and older who have not received it before and for those who have certain health conditions.

How do pneumococcal vaccines work?

Pneumococcal vaccines work by stimulating the body's immune system to produce antibodies against the bacteria that cause pneumonia. These antibodies help protect against future infections.

Is it necessary to get both pneumococcal vaccines?

Yes, it is recommended for older adults to get both pneumococcal vaccines for maximum protection against pneumonia and its complications.

William H. McDaniel, MD

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top