Everything You Need To Know About The Pneumonia Vaccine
During the winter months, many people think that they have a nasty cold or flu, but it turns out to be pneumonia an illness that can be life threatening in certain people. A vaccine can help lower your chance of contracting pneumonia. While the pneumonia vaccine does not prevent all cases of pneumonia, it reduces the severity of the disease.
That is especially important for older adults and if you have certain medical conditions that put you at greater risk for complications.
Now is the time to talk to your doctor about your risks and if you need a vaccine to protect you against pneumonia.
Niharika Juwarkar, MD, Internal Medicine with Firelands Physician Group, answers your most frequently asked questions about pneumonia and the risks.
What is pneumonia?
Pneumonia is a respiratory lung infection that is often mistaken for the flu. Your lungs become filled with fluid or pus that results in inflammation. Symptoms are very similar to the flu, but pneumonia can last for weeks and result in very serious complications.
While pneumonia can be caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi, most cases are due to a specific bacteria called streptococcus pneumoniae, more commonly known as pneumococcal pneumonia. This form can be treated with antibiotics. Your doctor can test to see what form of pneumonia you have. Treatment depends on the type of pneumonia you have and the severity of your symptoms. But, the best defense is vaccination.
Who is most at risk for pneumonia?
Side Effects Of The Pneumococcal Vaccine
Like most vaccines, the childhood and adult versions of the pneumococcal vaccine can sometimes cause mild side effects.
- redness where the injection was given
- hardness or swelling where the injection was given
There are no serious side effects listed for either the childhood or adult versions of the vaccine, apart from an extremely rare risk of a severe allergic reaction .
Medical Conditions Resulting In High Risk Of Ipd
Table 1: Medical Conditions Resulting in High risk of IPD
IPD is more common in the winter and spring in temperate climates.
Spectrum of clinical illness
Although asymptomatic upper respiratory tract colonization is common, infection with S. pneumoniae may result in severe disease. IPD is a severe form of infection that occurs when S. pneumoniae invades normally sterile sites, such as the bloodstream or central nervous system. Bacteremia and meningitis are the most common manifestations of IPD in children 2 years of age and younger. Bacteremic pneumococcal pneumonia is the most common presentation among adults and is a common complication following influenza. The case fatality rate of bacteremic pneumococcal pneumonia is 5% to 7% and is higher among elderly persons. Bacterial spread within the respiratory tract may result in AOM, sinusitis or recurrent bronchitis.
Worldwide, pneumococcal disease is a major cause of morbidity and mortality. The World Health Organization estimates that almost 500,000 deaths among children aged less than 5 years are attributable to pneumococcal disease each year. In Canada, IPD is most common among the very young and adults over 65 years of age.
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How The Pneumococcal Vaccine Works
Both types of pneumococcal vaccine encourage your body to produce antibodies against pneumococcal bacteria.
Antibodies are proteins produced by the body to neutralise or destroy disease-carrying organisms and toxins.
They protect you from becoming ill if you’re infected with the bacteria.
More than 90 different strains of the pneumococcal bacterium have been identified, although most of these strains do not cause serious infections.
The childhood vaccine protects against 13 strains of the pneumococcal bacterium, while the adult vaccine protects against 23 strains.
My Doctor Didnt Tell Me About The Vaccination Is It New
The CDC began recommending adults with asthma get the pneumococcal vaccination in 2008. In 2012, the CDC started recommending adults with certain medical conditions or who take medicines like corticosteroids get the second vaccine. If your doctor hasnt mentioned the vaccine, ask about it as soon as possible.
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When To Get The Vaccine
Thereâs no such thing as pneumonia season, like flu season. If you and your doctor decide that you need to have a pneumonia vaccine, you can get it done at any time of the year. If itâs flu season, you can even get a pneumonia vaccine at the same time that you get a flu vaccine, as long as you receive each shot in a different arm.
What Happens When You Get Pneumococcal Disease
Pneumococcal disease can lead to many different illnesses. What illness you get depends on where the bacteria goes in your body. If the bacteria spreads to your lungs, it can cause pneumonia. The bacteria can also get into the bloodstream and cause sepsis. If the bacteria gets to the central nervous system, it can cause meningitis. All forms of pneumococcal disease are very dangerous.2-4
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Cough And Cold Medicines
Be careful with cough and cold medicines. They may not be safe for young children or for people who have certain health problems, so check the label first. If you do use these medicines, always follow the directions about how much to use based on age and weight.
Always check to see if any over-the-counter cough or cold medicines you are taking contain acetaminophen. If they do, make sure the acetaminophen you are taking in your cold medicine plus any other acetaminophen you may be taking is not higher than the daily recommended dose. Ask your doctor or pharmacist how much you can take every day.
Know The Facts About The Pneumonia Vaccine
Just as with a flu shot, and now the COVID-19 vaccines, some people believe that getting a pneumococcal vaccine will cause them to come down with the disease or experience long-term side effects.
This is absolutely not true, Dr. Suri says.
Not only will the pneumococcal vaccine help reduce the risk of contracting certain types of bacterial pneumonia, it also guards against serious consequences resulting from the flu and severe infections, such as .
For young children, older adults, smokers and those with other risk factors, the vaccine is a healthy choice to make.
I cant see any reason to avoid this vaccine and every reason to get it, she says.
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Side Effects Of Pneumococcal Vaccine
Like other vaccines, there are certain side effects associated with PCV13 and PPSV23 vaccines. You do not usually experience life-threatening complications though. Some people may have problems such as redness, swelling, and soreness at the site of the shot. This should resolve in a few days.
About 1% of people experience other side effects after getting the shot, and the list includes muscle aches, fever, and severe swelling. A severe allergic reaction may occur if you are allergic to anything in the vaccines. The most common signs of a severe allergic reaction are dizziness, breathing difficulty, behavior changes, hives, high fever, hoarse voice, rapid heartbeat, pale skin, and weakness. Seek immediate medical assistance if you experience these symptoms.
What Are The Possible Side Effects Of Pneumococcal Immunisation
All medicines and vaccines can have side effects. Sometimes they are serious, most of the time theyre not.
For most people, the chance of having a serious side effect from a vaccine is much lower than the chance of serious harm if you caught the disease.
Talk to your doctor about possible side effects of pneumococcal vaccines, or if you or your child have symptoms after having a pneumococcal vaccine that worry you.
Common side effects of pneumococcal vaccines include:
- pain, redness and swelling where the needle went in
- reduced appetite
- body aches.
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Are You 65 Or Older Get Two Vaccinations Against Pneumonia
- By Gregory Curfman, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Former Editor-in-Chief, Harvard Health Publishing
ARCHIVED CONTENT: As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date each article was posted or last reviewed. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
If you or a loved one is age 65 or older, getting vaccinated against pneumonia is a good idea so good that the Centers for Disease Control now recommends that everyone in this age group get vaccinated against pneumonia twice.
This new recommendation is based on findings from a large clinical trial called CAPiTA, which were published today in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Streptococcus pneumoniae, sometimes just called pneumococcus, is a common bacterium that can cause serious lung infections like pneumonia. It can also cause invasive infections of the bloodstream, the tissues covering the brain and spinal cord , and other organs and tissues. Older individuals are especially prone to being infected by Pneumococcus, and these infections are often deadly.
The dark spots are pneumonia-causing Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria isolated from the blood of an infected person.
One caveat is that while PCV13 is effective in preventing pneumonia caused by S. pneumoniae, it does not prevent pneumonia caused by viruses or other bacteria.
Path To Improved Health
Pneumococcal vaccines can protect you against getting pneumonia, which is contagious and spreads from close, person-to-person contact. Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs and can lead to many symptoms, including:
- chest pains
- bringing up mucus when you cough
For seniors, pneumonia can be very serious and life-threatening. This is especially true if you have a chronic condition, such as diabetes or COPD. Pneumonia can also develop after youve had a case of the flu or a respiratory virus such as COVID-19. It is extremely important to stay current on flu shots each year in addition to your pneumococcal vaccines.
While PPSV23 and PCV13 do not protect against all types of pneumonia, they can make it less likely that you will experience severe and possibly life-threatening complications from the illness.
The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that seniors who have not had either pneumococcal vaccine should get a dose of PCV13 first, and then a dose of PPSV23 6-12 months later. The vaccines cannot be given at the same time. If you have recently had a dose of PPSV23, your doctor will wait at least one year to give you PCV13.
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Concurrent Administration Of Vaccines
Pneumococcal vaccines may be administered concomitantly with other vaccines, with the exception of a different formulation of pneumococcal vaccine . There should be at least an 8 week interval between a dose of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine and a subsequent dose of Pneu-P-23 vaccine, and at least a 1 year interval between a dose of Pneu-P-23 vaccine and a subsequent dose of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine refer to Immunocompromised persons for information regarding administration of pneumococcal vaccines to HSCT recipients. Different injection sites and separate needles and syringes must be used for concurrent parenteral injections. Refer to Timing of Vaccine Administration in Part 1 for additional information about concurrent administration of vaccines.
Flu Vaccines For Older Adults
Flu short for influenza is a virus that can cause fever, chills, sore throat, stuffy nose, headache, and muscle aches. Flu is very serious when it gets in your lungs. Older adults are at a higher risk for developing serious complications from the flu, such as pneumonia.
The flu is easy to pass from person to person. The virus also changes over time, which means you can get it again. To ensure flu vaccines remain effective, the vaccine is updated every year.
Everyone age 6 months and older should get an annual flu vaccine, but the protection from a flu vaccine can lessen with time, especially in older adults. Still, you are less likely to become seriously ill or hospitalized because of the flu if you get the vaccine. A flu vaccine is especially important if you have a chronic health condition such as heart disease or diabetes.
You should get your vaccine ideally by the end of October each year so you are protected when the flu season starts. It takes at least two weeks for the vaccine to be effective. However, if you have not received your flu vaccine by the end of October, its not too late as flu season typically peaks in December or January. As long as the flu virus is spreading, getting vaccinated will help protect you.
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What Are The Pros And Cons Of Being Vaccinated
The benefits of vaccination generally far outweigh any risks, Privor-Dumm says. Although vaccines do have some side effects, most are mild and temporary.
The bigger con is getting disease, which may lead to further health complications, she adds. For instance, people who are hospitalized with influenza have a greater likelihood of heart attack or stroke following their illness, and the economic consequences of a serious illness can be catastrophic for some. Thats why its best to prevent disease in the first place.
How Dispatchhealth Is Improving Healthcare
While pneumococcal vaccines can protect at-risk individuals from getting pneumonia and developing extreme complications from other respiratory infections, contraction can still happen. For seniors, in particular, pneumonia can be life threateningespecially in those with chronic conditions . Pneumonia can also occur post infection, developing after the flu or COVID-19making it important for at-risk adults to watch for symptoms.
If you do have symptoms, reach out to DispatchHealth for on-demand services that come to you. We provide an urgent healthcare alternative for those with chronic conditions and acute medical concerns, treating a variety of health complications in the comfort of the home. Our medical teams will come prepared with nearly all the tools and technologies found in a traditional ER setting, but without the disruptive or impersonal medical experience. Whats more, our streamlined service is compatible with most insurancesincluding Medicaid and Medicareand we offer an affordable flat rate for uninsured patients.
This flu season, you can count on DispatchHealth. We can also test for COVID-19 as well as treat and support COVID-19 patients. To request care, simply contact us via phone, mobile app, or through our website.
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What Increases Your Risk
You are more likely to get pneumonia if you:
- Smoke. Cigarette smoking is a strong risk factor for pneumonia in healthy young people.
- Have another medical condition, especially lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or asthma.
- Are younger than 1 year of age or older than 65.
- Have an impaired immune system.
- Take medicine called a proton pump inhibitor that reduces the amount of stomach acid.footnote 3, footnote 4
- Drink excessive amounts of alcohol.
- Recently had a cold or the flu.
You are more likely to have complications of pneumonia and need to go to the hospital if you:
- Are older than 65.
- Have some other illness , or have gone to the hospital for a medical problem within the last 3 months.
- Have had your spleen removed or do not have a working spleen .
- Have an alcohol use problem.
- Have a weak immune system.
- Reside in a place where people live close together, such as a university dorm or nursing home.
Do I Need To Pay For Pneumococcal Immunisation
Vaccines covered by the National Immunisation Program are free for people who are eligible. See the NIP Schedule to find out which vaccines you or your family are eligible to receive.
Eligible people get the vaccine for free, but your health care provider may charge a consultation fee for the visit. You can check this when you make your appointment.
If you are not eligible for free vaccine, you may need to pay for it. The cost depends on the type of vaccine, the formula and where you buy it from. Your immunisation provider can give you more information.
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How Often Should I Get Pneumonia Vaccine
If you are over 65 but are overall healthy, you should get a one-time vaccination with the pneumonia shot. You do not require a booster shot in this case, but some doctors recommend getting a second shot 5-10 years after the first one. In case you smoke, have chronic lung disease, or have impaired immunity, you should get your first pneumonia shot whenever you want. The same holds true for anyone who has a dysfunctional spleen.
The frequency of pneumonia vaccine depends on your age and overall health. However, it is usually enough to get the pneumonia shot once or twice during adulthood to protect yourself from pneumococcal disease. It is different from flu shots that you need to get every year. The reason is pneumonia virus does not change constantly as in the case of the influenza virus. Because the influenza virus mutates constantly, the vaccine that may have worked last year may no longer be effective in the next year.
Why Do Healthy People Need To Get Vaccinated
Healthy people should get vaccinated against the flu vaccine every year because anyone can get seriously ill from the flu virus. Some groups have a higher risk than others. But the flu vaccine helps prevent serious illness and death from the flu in all people who get vaccinated and in people who are unable to get vaccinated. The more people who get the flu vaccine, the more everyone in our community is protected.
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