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Pneumonia Shots

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Updated May 28, 2014

Why is There a Pneumonia Shot?:

Pneumonia is the leading cause of vaccine-preventable death in the United States. Combined with the flu, it is the fifth leading cause of death in the US, period.

Who is at Risk?:

Anyone can get pneumonia, but some groups are at higher risk than others. These groups include:

  • Anyone over 65 years old.
  • Anyone with a suppressed immune system.
  • Children under 2 years old.
  • Anyone with heart or lung disease.
  • Anyone with alcoholism.
  • Anyone with kidney failure.
  • Anyone with HIV.
  • Anyone with diabetes.
  • Alaskan natives and certain Native American populations.

What Does the Pneumonia Shot Do?:

The pneumonia vaccine for adults (PPV) protects against 23 types of pneumonia. Although antibiotics such as penicillin were once very effective at treating pneumonia, the disease has mutated and is becoming more and more resistant to modern antibiotics. That is why it is so important to be vaccinated against this very serious disease.

Who Needs it and When?:

Anyone in the high risk category should have a pneumonia vaccine. Ask your doctor when the best time to be vaccinated is for you. Children under 2 should have a vaccination called Prevnar (PCV) four times before their 2nd birthday to prevent serious illness from pneumonia. Usually, only one dose of the vaccine is necessary for adults.

When is a Second Dose of Pneumonia Vaccine Necessary?:

  • A person over age 65 who had their first dose before age 65 and more than 5 years have passed since they received the vaccine.
  • Anyone with a damaged or no spleen.
  • Anyone with sickle cell disease or cancer.
  • Anyone with HIV.
  • Anyone with kidney failure or nephrotic syndrome.
  • Anyone who has had an organ or bone marrow transplant.
  • Anyone taking immuno-suppressing drugs (such as long-term steroids or chemotherapy).

When Should the Second Dose be Given?:

Anyone under age 10 that needs a second dose, may receive it 3 years after the first dose. Anyone over age 10 that requires a second dose, may receive it 5 years after the first dose.

What are the Side Effects?:

Side effects to the PPV are generally very mild, it is considered an extremely safe vaccine. Common side effects include:

  • Pain or redness at the injection site
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches

Very rarely, severe allergic reactions have been reported. It is a possibility that very serious problems, including death could result from this vaccine, as with any medication. The risk of serious complication from the disease is much higher.

Pneumonia Vaccine Info For Those Over 65:

It is very important for all people over 65 to have a pneumonia vaccine. Pneumonia is MOST dangerous to this age group. Contact your doctor about getting this important vaccination, especially during flu season.

Reference:
"Vaccine Information Statement (VIS)." Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine - What You Need To Know. 29July1997. Department of Health and Human Services Centers For Disease Control and Prevention National Immunization Program. 27 Oct 2006 <http://www.cdc.gov/nip/publications/vis/vis-ppv.pdf>.

  1. About.com
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  5. What Is a Pneumonia Shot and Who Should Get One?

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