Pneumonia vaccine for older adults now available

SINGAPORE - The Health Sciences Authority has approved the use of of a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine Prevenar 13 for adults aged 50 years and older for active immunisation against the disease.

It is the first first pneumococcal conjugate vaccine for older adults of this age group.

The vaccine provides protected against the invasive disease caused by the 13 streptococcus pneumoniae serotypes - the bacterium behind pneumonia - contained in the vaccine.

Administered as a single dose, it provides long term protection from pneumococcal disease.

According to Pfizer, the pharmaceutical company behind the vaccine, streptococcus pneumoniae bacterium can be life threatening, yet it is significantly under-recognised globally, including Singapore.

The most common form of illness seen in this group is pneumonia.

However, the group of pneumococcal diseases include other invasive infections, such as bacteremia (the presence of viable bacteria in the blood), sepsis (also known as blood poisoning, it is a serious infection that can cause multiple organ failure), and meningitis (a bacteria infection involving the brain and the spinal cord).

In Singapore, pneumonia ranks only behind cancer and coronary heart disease as the top disease killers in Singapore, and it is the fourth highest cause for hospitalisation here.

The disease also causes a significant financial burden globally as costs of treatment, outpatient care and medication increases, said country manager of Pfizer Singapore Christina Teo.

And as the bacteirum gets increasingly resistant, there is a greater necessity to harness a broader spectrum of treatments, she added.

Pneumococcal disease can affect people of all ages, but children younger than five and adults 50 years old or older are at an increased risk.

Other additional risk factors for pneumococcal disease include heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and a history of smoking.

The vaccine is now available in clinics island wide.