Vaccine for seniors

by | May 15, 2012

A children’s vaccine is now available for those 50 years and above.


BY: Eleanor Yap

A vaccine that has been used for children below the ages of five years to fight pneumonia is now available for those 50 years and above. Pharmaceutical company Pfizer has launched its Prevenar 13 (PCV13), a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine to seniors to immunise them against pneumococcal disease, which can cause pneumonia (lung infection), meningitis (infection of the brain lining and/or spinal cord), bacteremia (blood infection) and Acute Otitis Media (middle-ear infection).

According to the Ministry of Health, pneumonia is the third highest cause of death locally, behind cancer and coronary heart disease, and it is the fourth highest cause of hospitalisation in Singapore. About 500 people in Singapore are diagnosed from pneumococcal disease and about 98 percent of those affected end up with pneumonia. Currently, about 57 out of 100,000 people who are diagnosed with pneumococcal disease are aged 65 and above. With a growing ageing population, these figures will likely increase. Besides age, other risk factors for pneumococcal disease include: Heart disease, diabetes, asthma and a history of smoking.

The vaccine is a single dose for S$160 and is available at most general practitioner clinics. Though data is still not available as to how long the vaccine is good for, Pfizer indicated that it is likely good for at least 12 years or longer.

Some possible side effects of the vaccine include pain and fever, which could dissipate after two days. Currently, Prevenar 13 is not the only vaccine in the market; others include Pneumo 23 and Pneumovax 23, which are both pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccines (PPV23). The key difference between Prevenar 13 and these two vaccines are the conjugation technology, which has the advantage of generating higher affinity antibodies and better immunological memory in order to offer long-term protection to patients, explained Pfizer.


(** PHOTO CREDIT: Syringes and vial – syringe angled as if about to be plunged into vial of medication by zeathiel, stock.xchng)



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