I am frequently asked by my adult patients if they should get the pneumococcal vaccine. If you want the short answer, I can give it here: NO WAY!
Let me explain.
An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA—February 17, 2015, volume 313, N. 7) reported on the new guidelines which advise doctors to recommend two pneumococcal vaccines in adults. The recommendations state that “…adults 65 years or older should receive one dose of the 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) followed by a dose of the 23-valnet pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23) 6 to 12 months later.” After reading that, you would assume that the two vaccines have been shown to be effective at preventing pneumococcal-associated illnesses and death from pneumonia. But, you would think wrong as the vaccines fail over 99% who take them.
As reported in the JAMA article, Stretococcus pneumoniae is a common cause of respiratory tract infection and community acquired pneumonia (CAP). In 2012, there were 31,600 cases of pneumococcal infection and 3,300 related deaths in the U.S. The highest rates of infection are among children and adults aged 65 years and older. The PPSV23 vaccine was licensed in the U.S. in 1983. According to a 2013 meta-analysis, there is no consistent evidence that the PPSV23 vaccine is associated with reduced rates of all-cause pneumonia or all-cause mortality.