U.S. advisory panel recommends Prevnar 13 vaccine for elderly

Wed Aug 13, 2014 5:25pm EDT

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Aug 13 (Reuters) - An influential U.S. medical advisory panel on Wednesday recommended that people 65 and older be given Pfizer Inc's blockbuster Prevnar 13 vaccine to protect against pneumococcal bacteria that can cause pneumonia and other infections.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), in a 13-2 vote, recommended that elderly patients take Pfizer's vaccine, even if they had previously been vaccinated with Merck & Co's leading Pneumovax vaccine.

But the panel, which provides medical advice to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, expressed concern that the federal Medicare insurance program for the elderly currently is unable to cover Prevnar 13 for patients who have already taken Pneumovax.

A Medicare official, speaking to the panel in Atlanta, said his agency would have to change its rules in order to qualify such patients for reimbursement, and that its evaluation would likely stretch out until January 2016. (Reporting by Ransdell Pierson; editing by Gunna Dickson)

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