Pneumococcal infections were once the scourge of the elderly, causing thousands of deaths each year. Infection by the pneumococcus pathogen can affect not only the lungs, but also the brain and blood of vulnerable individuals. In addition, the streptococcus pneumonia bacteria developed a resistance to many types of antibiotics, making treatment of these infections much more difficult. The new pneumonia vaccines provide protection for individuals in their senior years, as well as for anyone that has a risk factor for developing pneumonia.
Who should get the pneumonia vaccine?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has created recommendations for physicians for pneumonia vaccines. Two different forms of the pneumonia vaccine are available, each which may be given when certain medical conditions are present:
- Individuals between the ages of 19 and 64 who have certain medical conditions that could predispose them to pneumococcal infection, such as those with asthma, kidney disease, chronic lung disease or chronic heart disease, and those who smoke.
- Individuals over the age of 19 who have sickle cell disease or cerebrospinal fluid leaks and those with cochlear implants or compromised immune systems.
- Individuals over the age of 65.
Types of pneumonia vaccine
Two different types of pneumonia vaccine are currently available. Your doctor will determine the best one for you, based on your health and medical needs:
- PPSV23 -- Protects against 23 different types of Streptococcus pneumonia bacteria, but is not recommended for children under the age of 2.
- PCV13 -- Protects against 13 different types of Streptoccous pneumonia bacteria, and can be given to children under the age of 2.
When is a booster recommended?
Some individuals may require a booster shot of the pneumonia vaccine after five years if they have certain medical issues, such as:
- Are under treatment with chemotherapy drugs for cancer
- Multiple myeloma, leukemia or lymphoma
- Sickle cell disease
- Nephritic syndrome, a kidney condition
Side effects from vaccine
Both types of pneumonia vaccine are considered safe for general use. However, some individuals may have a reaction to the vaccine, which should be brought to the attention of your physician. Minor side effects include:
- Muscle pain
- Soreness at the site
- Redness at the site of injection
- Swelling of the affected limb
- Major swelling or trouble breathing, both of which should get immediate medical attention
Your primary care physician can provide information on the best vaccine for your specific needs. If you are over the age of 65 or are in a high-risk group, ask your doctor during your next visit about how the pneumonia vaccine can protect you.