Monday, June 1, 2015

Adult Pneumonia Vaccines

By Richard Peatman, PharmD., Meadow Vista Pharmacy

There's a big change in recommended adult vaccinations.  It's about pneumococcal pneumonia, which hospitalizes over 300,000 people a year, most of whom are over the age of 50, and is a frequent cause of death.  It is an illness caused by the common bacteria Streptococcus pneumonia.
Symptoms often appear quickly and can be very severe.  Recovery from infection can take weeks or longer and can leave patients with cough and fatigue.  You can contract bacterial pneumonia from infected people who cough or sneeze around you.  And unfortunately, some of the bacteria that cause the disease have become resistant to antibiotics.  The illness can sometimes lead to blood infections, deafness, brain damage and meningitis.
Fortunately, immunizations can significantly decrease the incidence of the disease.  A vaccine call Pneumovax® covers 23 strains of pneumonia and has been available for years.  Recently, a vaccine covering 13 more strains of pneumonia has been approved for use in individuals over the age of 50.  It's called Prevnar® and if you have Medicare, it will probably be completely covered.  If you are between 50 and 64, check with your insurance provider to determine your cost.
Both types of pneumonia vaccines are given by injection and can cause pain and swelling at the injection site.  Sometimes there are body-wide reactions including headache, fatigue, muscle and joint pain.  Usually the reactions are mild and last only a few days. The new recommendation is for individuals 65 and older to receive both types of vaccines.  If someone has not received either vaccine, they should start with Prevnar® and then receive Pneumovax® at least 6 to 12 months later.  For those who have already received Pneumovax®, they should receive Prevnar® after 12 months.
Although it is common to think of pneumonia as a disease of the very elderly or those in the hospital, it frequently occurs in otherwise healthy people.  The risk goes up after the age of 50.  Talk to your healthcare provider about getting immunized.  It's important.  For more information, go to

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