Should You Get the Pneumonia Vaccine?

Posted: Dec 15th, 2016 at 12:00AM - by e7 Health

Should You Get the Pneumonia Vaccine?

While many aren't even aware of it, it happens that there is actually a vaccine which is quite effective against pneumonia. This vaccine protects from the bacteria Streptococcus pneumonia which is the cause of the infection. While it's generally thought of as a secondary infection, it can also be a killer, and some groups are more at risk than others.

A Brief Explanation of Pneumonia

Streptococcus pneumonia is most famous for causing pneumonia. This is an infection of the upper respiratory tract which can cause many complications. Less commonly known, this bacteria can also cause some even more serious effects, including meningitis, brain abscesses, and septic arthritis.

Treatment is somewhat difficult, as the bacteria were originally easily defeated with penicillin but have developed some level of resistance as time has gone on. While it hasn't reached "superbug" status, modern strains of the bacteria are resistant to quite a few categories of antibiotic.

Pneumonia itself isn't always caused by this bacteria, but it's responsible for about 50% of cases. Pneumonia is a result of the inflammation of the lungs, primarily the alveoli and causes some fairly drastic symptoms.

These include the following:

  • Coughing, productive or dry
  • Chest Pains
  • Fever
  • General trouble breathing

Among the elderly and very young portions of the population, pneumonia is a leading cause of death. This makes vaccination very wise for those who fall into either of these age categories. Treatment with antibiotics is not always effective in these cases, vaccination is the best route of protection.

Essentially, it's a dangerous condition. In a healthy adult, it's rarely fatal but can result in weeks of illness and all of the attendant problems with downtime, and in those at risk, it can prove fatal quickly.

Who Should Get It?

There are a few different groups which should have the vaccine administered. The CDC guidelines are fairly clear, and it's important to receive the vaccine if you're in one of the majorly at-risk groups for the disease.

The CDC recommends that all children under the age of two years old and anyone over the age of 65 receive the vaccine. The reasoning is pretty clear: those age groups are most at risk of dying from a bout of pneumonia.

senior man and woman holding handsIn addition to the at-risk age groups, there are some other factors which should be taken into account before you entirely decide against it.

Anyone with an immunosuppressive condition, or who is on medication with an effect on the immune system is at more risk than normal to the bacteria. Ask for your doctor's recommendation if you suffer from one of these, but it's definitely something to strongly consider.

Smokers are also at more risk of contracting pneumonia and it's a good idea for them to receive this vaccine in order to protect them against possible infection as well. The same goes for those who have alcoholism, a suppressed immune system and pneumonia isn't a good combination.

Asthmatics are also among the higher risk group which may want to be inoculated.

While it's now a routinely recommended vaccination for children, this only happened in 2000. If you're an adult at the time of this writing, it's quite likely that you haven't received the vaccine. Your medical records will show for sure.

All of these groups suffer from a higher risk than the general population of both contracting pneumonia and suffering from serious complications in the event that they are infected. Keep this in mind, and make an informed decision with your doctor in order to prevent trouble.

The Vaccines

There are actually two vaccines available to protect against the bacteria.

The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine is the one given to both children and older people. It protects from several of the serotypes of Streptococcus pneumonia. There are three variants which protect from different amounts of serotypes. PCV7 will protect from seven of them, PCV10 protects from ten of them, and PCV13 protects from a full thirteen different serotypes of the bacteria.

This vaccine is generally given once, as repeated administrations seem to increase the side effects. Those who are at risk should consult with a doctor at one of our locations and we'll be able to figure out if the whole thing is right for you.

The polysaccharide variation of the vaccine was actually a landmark in science, being the first vaccine of its type developed. It provides protection from a broad spectrum of stereotypes, 23 to be exact, which cover 90% of the known strains of the bacteria. It isn't given to young children, but it's widely given to those over the age of two years old.

It is also given to children who are in a special at-risk group, such as suffering from sickle cell or a non-functioning spleen, as a secondary inoculation after the conjugate variation is given to them at a very young age.

The vaccine is particularly important for those who have contracted HIV since it greatly reduces the incidence of the disease in that segment of the population.

Both have the usual vaccine side effects, with very, very rare cases of extreme side effects occurring. They're generally regarded as safe.

The usual side effects include mild disease-like symptoms, including irritability and chills as well as a sore arm from the intramuscular injection. If you've had any vaccinations you remember, then you're most likely familiar with the whole process and know that it's generally fine as long as you're okay with the injection.

If you're in an at-risk category and haven't previously been immunized then you should make an appointment to get the vaccination performed. It's a simple process and it can help to protect you from the complications caused by this virulent bacteria. Taking the shot if you're in an at-risk group is a good idea and we make the procedure simple and easy. Give one of our locations a call and set up an appointment, protect yourself from this dangerous disease.

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