There are actually two kinds of pneumonia vaccine: PPSV23 or Pneumovax, and PCV-13. The Pneumovax has been around for a long time and protects you against 23 members of the S. pneumoniae family. The newer PCV-13 vaccine extends your coverage to include 13 more members of the S. pneumoniae family.
So which “pneumonia vaccine" should you get and when should you get it?
When you are 65 years old, please get the PCV-13 first. Then you should get the Pneumovax 6-12 months afterwards. But if you've already had your Pneumovax, then get your PCV-13 one year later.
If you are younger than 65, you might need a pneumonia vaccine if you have special conditions. Do you qualify? Figuring it out is a bit like reading the rules to the Monopoly game, detailed but important. Talk with your doctor about this. Here's a short version:
PPSV23 or Pneumovax
Recommended for high-risk children ages 2-5 years old with certain high-risk medical conditions. These conditions include sickle cell disease, asplenia, chronic heart disease, pulmonary disease or kidney disease, diabetes, cerebrospinal fluid leaks, HIV infection, immunosuppression, diseases associated with immunosuppressive and/or radiation therapy, solid organ transplantation, or who have or will have a cochlear implant. Your pediatrician can advise you.
Adults ages 19 to 64 years old with certain medical conditions should receive one or two doses of PPSV23, given five years apart. For adults, these medical conditions include sickle cell disease, certain kidney diseases, cigarette smoking, asthma, chronic heart or lung disease, diabetes, asplenia, alcoholism, and conditions that cause weakening of the immune system. Your doctor can advise you whether you fall into this category.
This is part of the routine vaccines recommended for infants and toddlers at ages two months, four months, six months and 12-15 months.
Adults ages 19-64 years old with asplenia, sickle cell disease, cerebrospinal fluid leaks, cochlear implants, or conditions that cause weakening of the immune system should also have the PCV-13 vaccination.
Again, talk with your doctor if you are younger than 65 and think you may be a candidate for the pneumonia vaccine, based on your own health history.