Pneumonia in older adults

This information was shared on the AARP blog recently. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now recommending that people age 65 and older get two pneumonia vaccines — the traditional shot as well as a newer version that can offer additional protection.

An immunization advisory panel to the CDC voted 13-2 in August to recommend that those 65-plus get the newer vaccine, called Prevnar 13, even if they already have had the current version, Pneumovax 23.

Those who have not gotten a pneumonia vaccine yet should get the Prevnar 13 first, then the traditional one six to 12 months later, the CDC advised.

There is one hitch: Medicare currently will pay for only one pneumonia vaccine per older adult, meaning it won’t reimburse for Prevnar 13 for those who have already gotten Pneumovax 23. Medicare would have to evaluate changing its rules, an official told the advisory panel, and that process would likely extend until January 2016, Reuters reported. Prevnar 13 costs about $135 a dose compared with $68 for Pneumovax 23.

The vaccines, which are needed only once for those 65-plus, protect against the bacteria that cause pneumonia as well as other serious infections, including meningitis. Prevnar 13 has been used in children since 2010.