Immunization Action Coalition and the Hepatitis B Coalition


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Issue Number 206            November 6, 2000


  1. Now is an excellent time to give pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV23) to your patients at risk!
  2. Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine resources for health professionals


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November 6, 2000

By Deborah L. Wexler, MD
Executive Director, Immunization Action Coalition

In light of the recent FDA licensure of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV7) and the publication of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) statement regarding its use, now is a good time to review the importance of pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV23) as well.

Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV23) can be given now or anytime to unvaccinated adults 65 years of age and older and to people under the age of 65 who have risk factors for pneumococcal disease.

Each year in the United States, pneumococcal disease causes an estimated 500,000 cases of pneumonia, 50,000 cases of bacteremia, 3,000 cases of meningitis, and at least 20,000 deaths. With national statistics indicating that only 46 percent of adults aged 65 and older are vaccinated, we can do better.

You needn't wait to give this vaccine along with influenza vaccine. You can protect your patients any time they come to your office during the year. The vaccine can be given simultaneously with all other vaccines (e.g., influenza, tetanus-diphtheria, hepatitis A and B), and there are no minimum spacing intervals. If your patient is not sure if he or she has been previously vaccinated and no record is immediately available, the patient should be vaccinated.

Who needs pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine? Millions of people.

PPV23 is routinely recommended for everyone 65 years of age and older. And many people younger than 65 (as young as 2 years of age) with certain diseases should be vaccinated as well. 

For example, you should vaccinate people with chronic health conditions such as cardiovascular disease (including congestive heart failure and cardiomyopathies), chronic pulmonary disease (including COPD and emphysema), alcoholism, diabetes mellitus, asplenia, compromised immune systems, and many more.

IAC offers an information page for health professionals called "Pneumococcal vaccine: Who needs it and who needs it again?" Immunization expert William L. Atkinson, MD, MPH, medical epidemiologist at CDC's National Immunization Program, answers many common questions about pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV23), who needs it, and its administration. To obtain a copy in camera-ready copy (PDF format), go to:

To obtain a copy in web text (HTML format), go to:

To obtain a camera-ready copy (PDF format) of "Prevention of Pneumococcal Disease: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices" published on April 4, 1997, go to:

For the web text version (HTML format), go to:

To obtain a copy of the pneumococcal polysaccharide Vaccine Information Statement (PPV23) in nine languages, go to:

Special thanks to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health for providing the Haitian Creole translation and to the Minnesota Department of Health for translations in Cambodian, Hmong, Laotian, Russian, Somali, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

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November 6, 2000

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) offers a variety of online resources concerning the use of pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine. Materials are available for health care providers, clinics, and long-term care facilities, as well as general patient education.

One of the new resources featured is the Pneumococcal Immunization Project's "Qwik Planner for Clinics," a guide designed to help health care providers determine which interventions will work best in their clinics to improve their immunization rates for the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine. Other pieces include planning checklists and patient assessment tools for the use of PPV23 vaccine in clinics and long-term care facilities.

To visit the pneumococcal prevention page at the MDH website, go to:


Immunization Action Coalition1573 Selby AvenueSt. Paul MN 55104
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Tel: (651) 647-9009Fax: (651) 647-9131

This page was updated on November 6, 2000