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preventive health services

Pneumococcal Vaccination

Why is this important?

Why is pneumococcal vaccine important?

  • Pneumococcal disease or pneumonia is a potentially deadly infection that can come on very quickly.
  • Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect against this infection.
  • Health officials updated pneumococcal vaccine recommendations, so even people who have been vaccinated before are urged to check with their healthcare professional to see if they need an additional vaccination to stay protected.

Pneumonia can be caused by viruses, bacteria, and fungi. In the United States, common causes of viral pneumonia are influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and a common cause of bacterial pneumonia is Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus).

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that can cause mild to severe illness in people of all ages. It is the leading cause of death in children younger than five years of age worldwide. However, these infections can often be prevented with vaccines and can usually be treated with antibiotics, antiviral drugs (such as Tam- iflu), or specific drug therapies.

Common signs of pneumonia include cough, fever, and difficulty breathing. You are more likely to become ill with pneumonia if you smoke or have underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease. However, you can lower your chances by taking good care of your medical problems, and quitting smoking. You can also help prevent pneumonia and other respiratory infections by following good hygiene practices, such as washing your hands regularly and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.

  • About one million US adults get pneumococcal pneumonia every year and five to seven percent will die from it. Fewer will get pneumococcal meningitis or sepsis, but the mortality rate in this group is higher (ten percent or more).
  • In its worst forms, pneumonia kills one in every four to five people over the age of 65 who gets it.

What are the risks?

Your doctor or other healthcare professional can advise you on which vaccines you need and why — as well as which vaccines may not be right for you based on certain factors such as allergies to vaccine ingredients or health conditions.

With any medicine, including vaccines, there is a chance of reactions. These are usually mild and go away on their own, but serious reactions are also possible. Adults have reported pain, redness, and swelling where the shot was given; also mild fever, fatigue, headache, chills, or muscle pain. If you are not feeling well, your health care provider might decide to reschedule the shot on another day.

How does the pneumonia vaccine work?

Pneumonia vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are in

the vaccine. There are different types of pneumococcal vaccines. Discuss what type of vaccine you should receive with your doctor. The number of individuals needed to receive a pneumococcal vaccine and save one life, is approximately 1,050 individuals.

Frequently asked questions about the pneumonia vaccination

Why do I need to get these shots?
Shots help protect you against diseases that can be serious and sometimes deadly — many of these diseases are common. Even if you have always gotten your shots on schedule, you still need to get some shots as an older adult. This is because:

  • Older adults are more likely to get certain diseases.
  • Older adults are more at risk for serious complications from infections.
  • The protection from some shots can wear off over time.

Getting your shots also protects other people.

Protect yourself and those around you by staying up to date on your shots. Even if you were vaccinated at a younger age, the protection from some vaccines  can wear off or the virus or bacteria that the vaccine protects against changes so your resistance is not as strong. As you get older,  you may also be at risk  for vaccine-preventable diseases due to your age, job, hobbies, travel, or health conditions.