Monday, 09 September 2013
Pneumonia and Shingles Vaccines for Elders
Because it's the time of year again for the annual flu shots, last week we had a discussion about it. Several people brought up the shingles and pneumonia vaccines and I think it's a good idea to be sure we have the correct information.
PNEUMONIA VACCINE FOR ADULTS
The pneumococcal vaccine prevents blood, brain and lung diseases (pneumonia, septicemia and meningitis) caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria.
These are serious diseases that kill approximately 40,000 Americans a year, most of them elders, and they are increasingly resistant to antibiotics. But the diseases can been prevented with the vaccine.
Who Should Get the Vaccine?
There are two types of pneumoccocal vaccine – PPSV24 and PVC13; they are not the same.
PVC13 is recommended for adults age 19 and older with certain conditions. Two that are more likely to apply to many TGB readers are cochlear implants (hello, Darlene) and conditions that cause weakening of the immune system.
If this describes you, talk to your physician to determine your pneumonia vaccine needs and don't rely on me or the internet. You can read more about the PVC13 vaccine at WebMD.
The PPSV23 (pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine) is recommended for adults age 65 and older. It protects against 23 strains of Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria and is marketed under the brand name Pneumovax.
It is made using dead bacteria and cannot make you sick.
When are Booster Shots of PPSV23 Needed?
NOT every five years as someone stated in the comments on last week's story about the flu vaccine.
EXCEPT if you received PPSV23 more than five years before turning 65. In that case, you will need a booster.
But if you received the PPSV23 vaccine at age 65 or older, you will never need a booster.
Who Should NOT Take the Pneumonia Vaccine?
People who have had a severe reaction to either the PVC13 or OPPSV23 vaccine in the past or are allergic to any of the ingredients in either vaccine should not have the shot.
Pneumonia Vaccine and Medicare
Medicare pays for this vaccine. If your physician or pharmacist does not accept the payment Medicare approves, you may have to pay a fee for the service but you cannot be billed for the vaccine itself.
There is more good information at the WebMD pneumonia vaccine page.
SHINGLES VACCINE FOR ADULTS
Here's a shocker: one-third of all Americans will have shingles in their lifetime. It occurs at all ages but is most common after age 50.
What is Shingles?
It's nasty. Shingles is a burning, blistering, excruciatingly painful skin rash. Some people also experience headache, fatigue, fever and chills or severe nerve pain that can last for weeks or months.
If you had chickenpox when you were a kid, you are at risk for shingles. If you never had chickenpox, you're home free - you can't get it so go take a walk or read a book instead of finishing reading this post.
Shingles affects about a million Americans a year and people 65 and older are at greater risk for complications than younger people. Among those complications are eye infections, vision loss, brain inflammation, hearing problems, balance difficulties and skin infections.
Believe me, you really do want this vaccine.
HOW EFFECTIVE IS THE VACCINE?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone 60 and older take the one-time shingles vaccine, brand name Zostafax. Even if you have had shingles, you should have the vaccine because recurrences are possible.
The vaccine does not guarantee immunity but it cuts chances by an estimated 50 percent and if you do contract shingles after having the vaccine, it will reduce the severity and the possibility of complications.
The vaccine contains live virus so if you have a weakened immune system or other contraindications, do not have the shot without consulting your physician.
The Mayo Clinic website has an extensive, easy-to-understand shingles section that will scare the pants off you. This isn't a disease you would wish on your worst enemy. You will find another good shingles section at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website.
Medicare and the Shingles Vaccine
Medicare covers the shingles virus as one of its preventive care benefits but it is under Part D, the separate prescription drug plan so it's going to cost you some.
You must have a Part D plan to be covered. Although the vaccine itself and the service of stabbing you in the arm with it are covered, you are responsible for the approved co-pay to your Part D plan provider. It commonly runs between $60 and $80 but could be higher or lower depending on your plan.
Here's a little personal warning: when I went for the shingles vaccine last year, I nearly fainted when the pharmacist gave me a price of more than $300. However, most of that was the year's Part D deductible that I had not fulfilled yet.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: Fans