New Britain City Journal

New Britain's Weekly Online Newspaper

Health

Protect Your Lungs with a Pneumonia Vaccine

A vaccine for pneumonia was first available in 1977, but not everyone is aware that the pneumonia vaccine exists, or for whom it is recommended. This article is intended to provide you with some basic information so that you and your health care provider can make the ultimate decision about whether or not the pneumonia vaccine is right for you.

Pneumonia is an infection that enters the lungs and can progress to other body systems. This infection is spread through droplets from the respiratory system, such as when someone coughs or sneezes. Signs of pneumonia include difficulty breathing, cough, fever, and general weakness. Washing your hands regularly and cleaning common surfaces is a good way of staying healthy and decreasing your chance of getting an infection, but the pneumonia vaccine is a strong defender against the bacteria that killed over 55,000 people in 2006 (statistic from the American Lung Association).

The vaccine helps protect you against pneumonia, bacteremia (bacteria in the blood), and some cases of meningitis (inflammation of the spinal cord). These diseases are the number one cause of vaccine-preventable disease in the U.S. The National Hospital Discharge Survey from 2007 showed that 1.1 million patients received hospitalization for pneumonia that year. Astounding numbers like this show the importance of public vaccine education.

Pneumonia vaccines are often provided by primary health care providers. The pneumonia vaccine is a different from the flu vaccine, and helps protect you from a different type of sickness than the common flu. Many are confused as to who should get the Pneumococcal Vaccine. The CDC recommends that everyone ages 65 and older, and children under 5 get vaccinated. Other groups for whom the vaccine is recommended include individuals who have:

  • heart disease
  • lung disease
  • sickle cell disease
  • diabetes
  • alcoholism
  • cirrhosis
  • lymphoma
  • renal failure
  • HIV or AIDS
  • asthma

Another common area of confusion is the need for repeat vaccination. If you are 65 or older, and your first pneumonia vaccine was given to you before you turned 65, you should get a second vaccination five years after your first one. People with chronic diseases such as sickle cell, renal failure, or HIV should also get another pneumonia vaccination five years after the first shot. Your primary care provider help you determine if you need that one-time revaccination. This information was provided by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

To find more information visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, www.cdc.gov/vaccines. You can also call the New Britain Health Department at (860) 612-2771. If you are interested in the pneumonia vaccine for yourself or your children, speak with your provider to see if the vaccine is right for you.