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Pneumococcal Disease and Older Adults

Pneumococcal disease is a leading cause of serious illness throughout the world. In the US, it is estimated that more than 150,000 hospitalizations from pneumococcal pneumonia occur each year, and about 5-7% of those who are hospitalized from it will die. The death rate is even higher for adults age 65 years and older.

Pneumococcal vaccination is recommended for all adults age 65 years and older.

Symptoms of Pneumococcal Disease

Pneumococcal disease can strike quickly and without warning. Depending on whether the infection causes pneumonia, sepsis, or meningitis, individuals may experience some combination of the following: very sudden onset of high fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, stiff neck, and disorientation. Symptoms may be less specific in older adults, who may experience confusion or lack of alertness.

Pneumococcal Vaccination

Vaccination reduces the chances of becoming infected with pneumococcal bacteria and is associated with improved survival, reduced chances of respiratory failure or other complications, and shorter in-patient stays for adults hospitalized with community-acquired pneumonia.

There are two types of pneumococcal vaccines currently recommended in the US: pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) and pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23).

All adults age 65 years and older should talk to a healthcare professional about which vaccines they need.


Reviewed September 2020

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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