Know The Facts About The Pneumonia Vaccine
Just as with a flu shot, and now the COVID-19 vaccines, some people believe that getting a pneumococcal vaccine will cause them to come down with the disease or experience long-term side effects.
This is absolutely not true, Dr. Suri says.
Not only will the pneumococcal vaccine help reduce the risk of contracting certain types of bacterial pneumonia, it also guards against serious consequences resulting from the flu and severe infections, such as .
For young children, older adults, smokers and those with other risk factors, the vaccine is a healthy choice to make.
I cant see any reason to avoid this vaccine and every reason to get it, she says.
Are You 65 Or Older Get Two Vaccinations Against Pneumonia
- By Gregory Curfman, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Former Editor-in-Chief, Harvard Health Publishing
ARCHIVED CONTENT: As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date each article was posted or last reviewed. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
If you or a loved one is age 65 or older, getting vaccinated against pneumonia is a good idea so good that the Centers for Disease Control now recommends that everyone in this age group get vaccinated against pneumonia twice.
This new recommendation is based on findings from a large clinical trial called CAPiTA, which were published today in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Streptococcus pneumoniae, sometimes just called pneumococcus, is a common bacterium that can cause serious lung infections like pneumonia. It can also cause invasive infections of the bloodstream, the tissues covering the brain and spinal cord , and other organs and tissues. Older individuals are especially prone to being infected by Pneumococcus, and these infections are often deadly.
The dark spots are pneumonia-causing Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria isolated from the blood of an infected person.
One caveat is that while PCV13 is effective in preventing pneumonia caused by S. pneumoniae, it does not prevent pneumonia caused by viruses or other bacteria.
When Is The Pneumonia Vaccine Given
The pneumonia vaccine is not the same as the flu vaccine, as it doesnt need to be given at a certain time of year. Rather, it can be given at any time, as long as its safe for you to have it.
However, if youre in a high-risk group for pneumonia, you should get the vaccine as soon as possible to make sure youre protected.
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How The Pneumococcal Vaccine Works
Both types of pneumococcal vaccine encourage your body to produce antibodies against pneumococcal bacteria.
Antibodies are proteins produced by the body to neutralise or destroy disease-carrying organisms and toxins.
They protect you from becoming ill if you’re infected with the bacteria.
More than 90 different strains of the pneumococcal bacterium have been identified, although most of these strains do not cause serious infections.
The childhood vaccine protects against 13 strains of the pneumococcal bacterium, while the adult vaccine protects against 23 strains.
Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Adults And Seniors
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people get additional free annual influenza vaccines and pneumococcal vaccine at 50 years of age through the National Immunisation Program.
Please see your doctor for advice on what you may need.
Generally, adults wont need boosters. We recommend you talk to your doctor if you are not sure:
- if you have had all the recommended vaccines
- if may need boosters
- if someone in your care may need additional vaccines or boosters.
Please note that the National Immunisation Program does not cover adults and seniors for missed or catch-up vaccines. You can buy additional vaccines privately when you need to.
Check the National Immunisation Program schedule and talk to your doctor or immunisation provider if you have not had all the recommended childhood vaccinations.
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Babies And The Pneumococcal Vaccine
Babies are routinely vaccinated with a type of pneumococcal vaccine known as the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine as part of their childhood vaccination programme.
Babies born on or after 1 January 2020 have 2 injections, which are usually given at:
- 12 weeks old
- 1 year old
Babies born before this date will continue to be offered 3 doses, at 8 and 16 weeks and a booster at 1 year.
How Often Do You Need To Get The Pneumonia Vaccines
Sometimes, vaccines require a booster shot. This means that an additional shot is given after the initial one to make sure that you dont lose immunity over time.
PCV13 never requires a booster shot in children or adults after all recommended doses are received.
Sometimes, PPSV23 requires a booster shot, depending on when and why it was given:
Children who get PPSV23 due to certain health conditions, like cancer and conditions that weaken the immune system, need a booster 5 years after the first dose.
Adults who get PPSV23 before age 65 should get one booster at least 5 years after the first dose, once theyve turned 65. No booster is needed if the first dose is given after age 65.
Adults with a weakened immune system and other specific conditions should have another dose 5 years after their first dose, and then one more dose at least 5 years after their most recent dose, once theyve turned 65.
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What Are The Pneumonia Vaccines
There are two FDA-approved vaccines that protect against pneumonia:
13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, or PCV13
23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine, or PPSV23
These immunizations are called pneumonia vaccines because they prevent pneumonia, which is an infection in the lungs. They are also known as pneumococcal vaccines because they protect against a bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae, or pneumococcus. Although there are many viruses, bacteria, and fungi that cause pneumonia, pneumococcus is the most common cause. Pneumococcus can also cause infections in other parts of the body.
About Author: Ken Harris
Ken Harris is the proudest father and a writing coordinator for the Marketing & Communications division of OSF HealthCare.He has a bachelor’s in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and worked as a daily newspaper reporter for four years before leaving the field and eventually finding his way to OSF HealthCare.In his free time, Ken likes reading, fly fishing, hanging out with his dog and generally pestering his lovely, patient wife.
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What Are The Side Effects Of The Pneumonia Vaccine
Most people don’t usually have serious side effects from either vaccine, but it’s possible to have some mild symptoms.
The most common side effects with PCV13 include:
- Redness where the shot was given.
- Swelling where the shot was given.
- Pain or tenderness where the shot was given.
The most common side effects with PPSV23 include:
- Redness where the shot was given.
- Pain where the shot was given.
- Muscle aches.
If you do happen to have side effects, CDC says they’ll usually go away within two days.
What Other Drugs Will Affect Prevnar 13
Before receiving Prevnar 13, tell your vaccination provider about all other vaccines you have recently received.
Also tell the vaccination provider if you have recently received drugs or treatments that can weaken the immune system, including:
an oral, nasal, inhaled, or injectable steroid medicine
medicines to treat or prevent organ transplant rejection.
This list is not complete. Other drugs may interact with Prevnar 13, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Not all possible drug interactions are listed here.
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Side Effects Of The Pneumococcal Vaccine
Like most vaccines, the childhood and adult versions of the pneumococcal vaccine can sometimes cause mild side effects.
- redness where the injection was given
- hardness or swelling where the injection was given
There are no serious side effects listed for either the childhood or adult versions of the vaccine, apart from an extremely rare risk of a severe allergic reaction .
The Importance Of Receiving The Pneumococcal Vaccine
Fact: Thousands of adults are killed by the pneumococcal disease every year in the United Statesespecially adults 65 or older, individuals with chronic health concerns, and those who are immunocompromised.
Myth: Everyone knows that theres a vaccine available to prevent pneumococcal disease from wreaking havoc in compromised individuals.
There are an exceptional number of adults unaware of the pneumococcal diseases dangers and the pneumococcal vaccines existence and benefits. To remove yourself from this statistic, here are the facts:
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What Is A Pneumococcal Vaccine
Engineered to prevent the pneumococcal disease, the pneumococcal vaccine is an injection that helps restrain illnesses caused by pneumococcal bacteriawhich includes pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, bacteremia, and even meningitis. There are two types of pneumococcal vaccines:
- PCV13 protects against 13 strains of pneumococcal bacteria and pneumoniaeasy to remember because 13 is in the name!
- PPSV23 protects against 23 strains of pneumococcal bacteriaeasy to remember because 23 is in the name!
Which Pneumonia Vaccine Is Best
There is no best pneumonia vaccine. The two available pneumonia vaccines are different, and which one is best for you depends on how old you are and whether or not you have certain medical conditions.
The main difference between Prevnar 13 and Pneumovax 23 is the number of pneumococcus strains the vaccine protects against.
PPSV23 contains polysaccharides from 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria and is mainly given to older adults.
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How Do The Pneumonia Vaccines Work
Like all vaccines, pneumococcal vaccines work by showing the immune system a version of the microbe, or a part of it, that is responsible for the infection. The pneumococcal vaccine contains part of the pneumococcus bacterias outer shell, made of molecules called polysaccharides. The immune system learns to recognize it, attack it, and defend the body against it, should it ever come into contact with the real bacteria.
The body does this by making antibodies against the shell of the pneumococcus bacteria. These antibodies stay in your bloodstream as part of your immune system. If you are exposed to pneumococci in the future, the antibodies recognize the bacterias shell and launch a targeted defense.
There are strains of pneumococcus, so the vaccines are made up of molecules from many of those strains.
Who Should Have The Pneumococcal Vaccine
Anyone can get a pneumococcal infection. But some people are at higher risk of serious illness, so it’s recommended they’re given the pneumococcal vaccination on the NHS.
- adults aged 65 or over
- children and adults with certain long-term health conditions, such as a serious heart or kidney condition
Babies are offered 2 doses of pneumococcal vaccine, at 12 weeks and at 1 year of age.
People aged 65 and over only need a single pneumococcal vaccination. This vaccine is not given annually like the flu jab.
If you have a long-term health condition you may only need a single, one-off pneumococcal vaccination, or a vaccination every 5 years, depending on your underlying health problem.
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What Is Prevnar 13
Prevnar 13 is used to help prevent disease caused by pneumococcal bacteria. This vaccine contains 13 different types of pneumococcal bacteria.
Pneumococcal disease is a serious infection caused by a bacteria. Pneumococcal bacteria can infect the sinuses and inner ear. It can also infect the lungs, blood, and brain, and these conditions can be fatal.
Prevnar 13 works by exposing you to a small amount of the bacteria or a protein from the bacteria, which causes the body to develop immunity to the disease. Prevnar 13 will not treat an active infection that has already developed in the body.
Prevnar 13 helps your body develop immunity to the disease, but will not treat an active infection you already have.
Like any vaccine, Prevnar 13 may not provide protection from disease in every person.
How Long Does A Pneumonia Shot Last
- Younger than 2 years old: four shots
- 65 years old or older: two shots, which will last you the rest of your life
- Between 2 and 64 years old: between one and three shots if you have certain immune system disorders or if youre a smoker
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The Shot: Shingles Vaccine
How often:Two shots separated by two to six months.
What to expect: Your average vaccination soreness, nothing major.
After you turn 50, getting vaccinated for shingles should be on your radar. The shingles vaccine a.k.a. Shingrix is more than 90% effective at protecting against shingles and its complications, and 85% effective for the four years after you get vaccinated. Shingles is a two-vaccine course, Dr. Wolfe says. I’ve often given shingles dose one with the flu shot and shingles dose two with a pneumonia shot, and that saves patients visits. It’s quite safe to be combined.
People With Health Problems And The Pneumococcal Vaccine
The PPV vaccine is available on the NHS for children and adults aged from 2 to 64 years old who are at a higher risk of developing a pneumococcal infection than the general population.
This is generally the same people who are eligible for annual flu vaccination.
You’re considered to be at a higher risk of a pneumococcal infection if you have:
- a suppressed immune system caused by a health condition, such as HIV
- a suppressed immune system caused by medicines, such as chemotherapy or steroid tablets
- a cochlear implant Action on Hearing Loss has more information about cochlear implants
- had a leak of cerebrospinal fluid this could be the result of an accident or surgery
Adults and children who are severely immunocompromised usually have a single dose of PCV followed by PPV.
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How Long Does The Pneumonia Vaccine Last
For most adults, one dose of the pneumonia vaccine should last a lifetime. In other words, you wont usually need to get another dose. This makes it different to the flu vaccine, which is given every year.
For some people, boosters of the pneumonia vaccine will be needed. This will be the case for people who have underlying health conditions that make them high-risk for pneumonia and related conditions. Your doctor will let you know if you need another vaccine.
If youre somebody who needs top-ups of the pneumonia vaccine, youll be able to receive them for free on the NHS.
What Are The Side Effects Of The Pneumonia Vaccines
PCV13 and PPSV23 can both cause mild side effects. Both pneumococcal vaccines are given in the arm and are injected into muscle. Children and adults may experience arm soreness, swelling, or redness where the shot was injected. Other side effects that may occur in adults include:
PCV13 should not be given to children at the same time as the annual flu shot, because of an increased risk of . These seizures are caused by a high fever and occur in up to 5% of children under 5. They can be scary, but dont cause any long-term health problems.
The good news is that the side effects will resolve on their own within a few days.
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When To Get The Vaccine & What To Expect
Of course, before seeking the pneumococcal vaccines, its important to first speak with your primary care physician and other providers in your healthcare network. Both vaccines are safe but can have side effects and should be avoided by individuals with allergic reactions to any of the components in the vaccine. Keep in mind, its recommended that you not receive both vaccines at the same time. Talk to your healthcare provider to determine if both vaccinations are the right choice for your needs. If both vaccines are needed, PCV13 should be given prior to PPSV23. Its important to schedule a separate visitation at least one year after the professionally suggested PCV13 vaccination to receive a dose of the PPSV23 vaccine.
Who Should Get Pneumococcal Vaccines
CDC recommends pneumococcal vaccination for all children younger than 2 years old and all adults 65 years or older. In certain situations, older children and other adults should also get pneumococcal vaccines. Below is more information about who should and should not get each type of pneumococcal vaccine.
Talk to your or your childs doctor about what is best for your specific situation.
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Booster Doses Of Pneumococcal Vaccine
If you’re at increased risk of a pneumococcal infection, you’ll be given a single dose of the PPV vaccine.
But if your spleen does not work properly or you have a chronic kidney condition, you may need booster doses of PPV every 5 years.
This is because your levels of antibodies against the infection decrease over time.
Your GP surgery will advise you on whether you’ll need a booster dose.
Are The Pneumonia Vaccines Safe
Yes, pneumonia vaccines are safe. Like all vaccines, they go through rigorous scientific testing and review. Although both pneumococcal vaccines can cause mild side effects, severe reactions to the vaccines are rare. In one study of adults over age 70 who received the PCV13 and PPSV23 vaccines, there was only one adverse event that was related to the vaccine.
Allergic reactions to vaccines are rare, but they can occur and may be serious. If you have had an allergic reaction to one of the ingredients in the pneumococcal vaccines or to a prior dose of a pneumococcal vaccine, you should not get vaccinated without talking to your healthcare provider first.
If you have questions about whether the pneumonia vaccines are safe for you, discuss this with your healthcare provider. You can also find information about pneumococcal vaccine safety here.
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