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General Medical Questions
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Question : I have taken the pneumonia shot in 2010. I mistakenly took it again this year. Is there a danger?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Anthony L. Komaroff, M.D., is professor of medicine and editor-in-chief of Harvard Health Publications at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Komaroff also is senior physician and was formerly director of the Division of General Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. Komaroff has served on various advisory committees to the federal government, and is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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January 09, 2014
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There is almost surely no danger. I’ll explain shortly what one very theoretical danger may be. But first let’s explain what pneumonia shots are.

There are two kinds of pneumonia shots approved for use in people your age. The one in use the longest is called PPSV23. The newer one is PCV13.  These shots immunize you against one common cause of bacterial pneumonia, called pneumococcal pneumonia. This type of pneumonia could be deadly. And it happens most often in adults over age 65.

It is generally recommended that all adults aged 65 and older get the PPSV23 shot once. If a person received the shot before age 65, some authorities recommend getting the shot one more time – five years after the first shot.

Certain chronic illnesses make a person more vulnerable to becoming very sick if they get pneumococcal pneumonia. It is recommended that people with these illnesses get the PPSV23 once if they are age 19 to 64. The illnesses include chronic heart disease, chronic lung disease, chronic liver disease, diabetes and alcohol abuse. The shot also is recommended in this age group for people who are smokers, because they are at high risk for damaging their lungs.

Certain diseases compromise the immune system, and make a person even more vulnerable to pneumococcal pneumonia. These diseases include human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, chronic kidney failure, leukemia, lymphoma, and cancers that have spread to multiple organs. People with these diseases should receive both types of shots once, and then be revaccinated with PPSV23 five years after the first shot.

If you are in generally good health, and have none of the conditions I’ve listed that make you particularly vulnerable to pneumococcal pneumonia, then you only needed to get the pneumonia shot (which I assume was PPSV23) once.

There is one theory that getting the shot a second time less than five years after the first shot might actually reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine.  But the evidence for this is inconclusive.  If I were you, and had received the pneumonia shot inadvertently a second time, I would not be concerned.

 

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