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New Pneumonia Vaccine For Adults 50 and Older

Injectable drug with injector-new pneumonia vaccine for people over 50

A pneumonia vaccine previously recommended only for infants and young children, has now been approved for adults ages 50 and older, the Food and Drug Administration announced.

The vaccine protects against 13 strains of pneumococcal disease, including the most common type of pneumonia plus meningitis and ear infection. It previously had been approved for use in children ages six weeks through five years.

A little more than a month ago, a panel of federal health experts voted overwhelmingly to recommend the vaccine to prevent these kinds of bacterial infections in older adults.

The FDA says 300,000 adults age 50 or older are hospitalized annually for pneumococcal pneumonia. Over half of the more than 5,000 annual deaths from invasive pneumococcal disease occurs in adults ages 65 and older, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

"Pneumococcal disease is a substantial cause of illness and death. (This) approval provides an additional vaccine for preventing pneumococcal pneumonia and invasive disease" among older Americans, said the FDA's Karen Midthun, M.D., in a prepared statement.

The vaccine, called Prevnar 13 and manufactured by Pfizer Inc., was first approved in 2000.  It is slightly different from previous pneumonia vaccines, including Pneumovax from Merck, that have been approved for children over age 2 and adults over 65.

While there is some overlap in effectiveness between the two types of vaccines, Prevnar may offer better protection against pneumococcal pneumonia.

To determine which pneumonia vaccine is best for you, talk to your doctor.

Photo credit: Maria Toutoudaki/Getty Images

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