As the cold weather sets in, we are reminded that it is not only time for flu season but for pneumonia season. While someone can get pneumonia anytime of the year, it is more likely during the colder months. Certain groups of people are more likely to catch pneumonia and to have complications from it. Fortunately, there is a vaccine that can help prevent you from catching pneumonia any time of the year.
About the Pneumococcal Vaccine
In the United States, the vaccine currently in use protects against twenty-three strains of pneumonia. These twenty-three strains represent 80-90% of the pneumonia strains seen in people living in the US. The vaccine is made with killed virus, so you cannot catch pneumonia from receiving the vaccine.
Who Should Get the Vaccine
The pneumonia vaccine is mainly recommended for individuals over the age of 65. If you are over the age of 65 and have received the vaccine in the past, you may not ever need another one. If you were under the age of 65 when you first received the vaccine and it has been more than five years since you were immunized, you should talk to your physician about receiving a booster shot. If you receive your vaccine after you turn 65, talk to your physician about future recommendations. For most individuals, no booster shot will be needed, but, for others, a booster shot ten years later may be necessary.
The pneumonia vaccine is also recommended for those between the ages of 2-64 who have medical conditions that make them extremely vulnerable to pneumonia. These individuals include those with compromised immune systems, cancer, chronic cardiovascular disease, chronic pulmonary disease, diabetes, and chronic liver disease. If any of these apply to you, talk to your doctor about receiving the pneumonia vaccine. For those under 65, a booster shot may be required every five years to ensure you remain protected.
Side Effects and Other Considerations
Rarely, individuals receiving the pneumonia vaccine suffer from side effects. The most common side effects are redness, soreness, and swelling at the injection site. These symptoms are usually very mild and last about 48 hours. Ice can be placed on the injection site to help relieve these symptoms. In rare cases, the vaccine can cause an allergic reaction that causes the personís throat to close. If you are allergic to mercury, you should not receive the vaccine since a very small amount is used in the serum.
Currently, the vaccine is not considered safe for children under the age of two. Tests are being done to design a pneumonia vaccine for children in this age group, since they are a high risk group.
If you are unsure about receiving a pneumonia shot or have questions, call your physician to discuss your options.