Pneumonia vaccine may cut Alzheimer’s risk by up to 40%

Pneumonia vaccine may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by up to 40%, study finds – as evidence mounts that shots could boost the immune system to protect the brain

  • Researchers looked at the medical records of more than 5,100 people aged 65 or older
  • They found that receiving the pneumonia vaccine reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s between 25% and 30%
  • Among those who don’t have genetic risk factors for the disease, the jab lowered the risk by up to 40%
  • Theories of why the inoculation protects include boosts to the immune system and protecting against a bad bout of pneumonia that may hasten dementia onset

Being vaccinated against pneumonia could significantly reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, new research suggests.

In a study being presented at the annual Alzheimer’s Association International Conference on Monday – held virtually this year – Duke University scientists looked at the medical records of people aged 65 and older.

They found that receiving the pneumonia immunization before age 75 lowered the risk of the age-related brain disease by about one-third.

What’s more, for those who didn’t have any genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s or dementia, the jab decreased the risk by up to 40 percent. 

A new study from Duke University found that receiving the pneumonia vaccine reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 25% to 30% and up to 40% in those without genetic risk factors (file image)

‘With the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccines are at the forefront of public health discussions,’ Dr Maria Carrillo, chief science officer of the Alzheimer’s Association, said in a statement.

‘It is important to explore their benefit in not only protecting against viral or bacterial infection but also improving long-term health outcomes.’  

An estimated 5.8 million Americans above age 65 are living with Alzheimer’s disease in 2020 and it’s expected to hit 13.8 million by 2050.

Sufferers experience a decline in cognitive, behavioral and physical abilities and there is no cure.

Those who have the disease have a build-up of two proteins, amyloid beta and tau, in the brain that form clumps, which smother and destroy neurons – leading to loss of memory and confusion. 

For the study, the team looked at the medical records of more than more than 5,100 people aged 65 or older.

They compared people who received the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) or the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23) to those who did not.


Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory, thinking skills and the ability to perform simple tasks.

It is the cause of 60 percent to 70 percent of cases of dementia.

The majority of people with Alzheimer’s are age 65 and older.

More than five million Americans have Alzheimer’s.

It is unknown what causes Alzheimer’s. Those who have the APOE gene are more likely to develop late-onset Alzheimer’s.

 Signs and symptoms:

  • Difficulty remembering newly learned information
  • Disorientation
  • Mood and behavioral changes
  • Suspicion about family, friends and professional caregivers
  • More serious memory loss
  • Difficulty with speaking, swallowing and walking

Stages of Alzheimer’s:

  • Mild Alzheimer’s (early-stage) – A person may be able to function independently but is having memory lapses
  • Moderate Alzheimer’s (middle-stage) – Typically the longest stage, the person may confuse words, get frustrated or angry, or have sudden behavioral changes
  • Severe Alzheimer’s disease (late-stage) – In the final stage, individuals lose the ability to respond to their environment, carry on a conversation and, eventually, control movement

There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s, but experts suggest physical exercise, social interaction and adding brain boosting omega-3 fats to your diet to prevent or slowdown the onset of symptoms.


Volunteers who received the jab with and without an accompanying seasonal flu shot were also compared.

Researchers found that those who received a pneumonia vaccine before age 75 were between 25 and 30 percent less likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

The largest reduction, up to 40 percent, was seen in people who were vaccinated and non-carriers of a gene that raises the risk of the disease. 

However, being administered a flu shot in addition to the pneumonia vaccine did not help reduce the risk. 

‘Vaccinations against pneumonia before age 75 may reduce Alzheimer’s risk later in life, depending on individual genotype,’ said lead author Dr Svetlana Ukraintseva, an associate Research Professor in the Biodemography of Aging Research Unit at Duke University’s Social Science Research Institute.   

‘These data suggest that pneumococcal vaccine may be a promising candidate for personalized Alzheimer’s prevention, particularly in non-carriers of certain risk genes.’   

Some researchers believe the vaccine may help boost the immune system and offer the brain some protection when it is vulnerable to decline.

There is also a possibility that a major infection, such as a bad bout of the pneumonia, may hasten the onset of dementia among those already at risk.  

it comes on the heels of another study being presented at the conference by the McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

Researchers looked at medical records of more than 9,000 patients over the age of 60 and found that just one flu vaccination was linked to a 17 percent lower risk of Alzheimer’s. 

Additionally, people who were immunized more than once had an additional 13 percent reduction in incidence. 

‘Our study suggests that regular use of a very accessible and relatively cheap intervention – the flu shot – may significantly reduce risk of Alzheimer’s dementia,’ said Albert Amran, a fourth-year medical student at McGovern, in a statement.

‘More research is needed to explore the biological mechanism for this effect – why and how it works in the body – which is important as we explore effective preventive therapies for Alzheimer’s.’

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