, Volume 30, Issue 5, pp 263-276
Date: 19 Feb 2013

Preventing Pneumococcal Disease in the Elderly

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Abstract

Streptococcus pneumoniae remains a major cause of morbidity and mortality throughout the world. To date, after the introduction of routine childhood immunization, elderly people (i.e., persons aged 65 years or older) suffer the greatest burden of pneumococcal disease in developed countries. At present, two anti-pneumococcal vaccines are available for use in adults: the 23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV23) and the 13-valent protein–polysaccharide conjugate vaccine (PCV13). This article reviews current data about the burden of pneumococcal disease in the elderly, as well as evidence for immunogenicity, clinical efficacy, and possible cost-effectiveness of both vaccines. The main advantage of PCV13 is that it may be more effective than PPV23, but a major limitation is that it is directed against strains that are likely to be greatly reduced in the population since its introduction in childhood immunization. The main disadvantage of PPV23 is that it may be less effective than PCV13 against vaccine-type infections but a major advantage is that it may provide protection against ten additional serotypes. To date, expert committees have not changed recommendations for pneumococcal vaccination in adults. However, at present, they are evaluating different alternatives (basically, maintaining PPV23, changing from PPV23 to PCV13 in some groups, or adding PCV13 for all or some target adult population subgroups). Critical data (clinical efficacy reported in ongoing trials and magnitude of indirect effects of pediatric PCV13 programs) needed to make a well-informed decision could be available during 2013. Considering all concerns over indirect effects and replacement strains following the use of polysaccharide-based vaccines, efforts should be directed toward developing vaccines, such as protein-based pneumococcal vaccines, with potential serotype-independent protection. Meanwhile, according to current recommendations, PPV23 should continue to be used for high-risk adults and all elderly people (with and without additional high-risk conditions). Although it is only moderately effective, it has a considerable serotype coverage and at-risk persons can benefit from the vaccination. High-risk individuals could also obtain a benefit from adding PCV13, but more data are needed before a universal recommendation can be made.