Protecting Adults Against Pneumococcal Disease

Preventing Pneumococcal Disease in Adults Infographic

Mark was a relatively healthy young man when a serious case of pneumonia resulted in a hospital stay, surgery, and months of recovery. He did not know that being a smoker put him at increased risk for pneumococcal disease, and he had not been vaccinated. Unfortunately, he is not alone.

In the US, pneumococcal pneumonia causes approximately 150,000 hospitalizations each year, and about 1 in 20 individuals who get pneumococcal pneumonia will die. Despite the availability of safe and effective vaccines, many US adults remain unvaccinated.

Anyone can get pneumococcal disease, but some groups are at increased risk, including young children, older adults, and those with certain medical conditions or other risk factors. Communities of color are also at higher risk of complications from pneumococcal disease. Research has shown that Black males experience higher mortality rates from pneumonia than White males. Black and Hispanic adults age 65 years and older are also less likely to be vaccinated against pneumococcal disease than older adults of other races.

Vaccination is the best way to protect against pneumococcal disease and is currently recommended for:

  • Children younger than age 2 years
  • Adults age 65 years and older
  • Individuals age 19 to 64 years with certain medical conditions or other risk factors

In the US, vaccination recommendations for adults age 65 years and older have changed with the introduction of two newly licensed pneumococcal conjugate vaccines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends the use of either 20-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV20) alone or 15-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV15) in series with a 23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23) for all adults age 65 years or older and for those age 19 to 64 years with certain underlying medical conditions or other risk factors who have not previously received a PCV vaccine or whose previous vaccination history is unknown.

The new recommendations provide protection against additional pneumococcal serotypes and are intended to be simpler than the previous recommendation, which included shared clinical decision-making for PCV13 in certain older adults.

To raise awareness about the importance of pneumococcal vaccination in adults, the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) has developed a decision tree tool and other resources to help healthcare professionals understand which pneumococcal vaccine is recommended for whom, and when.

4 Resources To Help Increase Pneumococcal Vaccination Rates in US Adults:

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