Pneumonia: Who needs the shot?


Vaccines can prevent many illnesses. Some of those vaccines—like the one for flu—are well-known. But others—like the pneumococcal vaccine—don't seem to get the same attention. This vaccine helps prevent pneumonia. You and your family may be among those who should get the shot.

A bad bug

Like the flu, pneumonia can make you very sick. It causes the air sacs in your lungs to fill with pus and liquid. That makes it hard for oxygen to get into your bloodstream and for your body's cells to work the way they should. In some cases, pneumonia can lead to death. Very young children and older adults are at greatest risk of getting pneumonia. People with chronic health problems and weak immune systems are also at great risk.

Staying safe

There are two pneumonia vaccines. One is for children younger than 5 years old, all adults 65 years or older, and people 6 years or older with certain risk factors. Most kids get this vaccine in four doses starting when they're 2 months old. They get the last dose when they're between 12 and 15 months old. Children younger than 5 years who didn't get the vaccine on schedule can still be protected. They won't need four doses, though.

The second type of pneumonia vaccine is for adults 65 and older and for people 2 through 64 years old who are at high risk for pneumococcal disease.You are at high risk if you:
  • Have long-term health problems, such as heart or lung disease, asthma, or diabetes. 
  • Would have a hard time fighting an infection because of illness or its treatment.
  • Smoke.
  • Live in a nursing home or long-term care facility.
Most people need only one dose of this pneumonia vaccine. Some people, though, will need a second dose. If so, you get it five years after the first one. Both pneumonia vaccines are considered very safe. Side effects may include pain or redness at the site of the shot and a fever.

Are you protected?

Talk to your doctor to learn more. Ask if or when you or your loved ones should get this vaccination. Need to establish a doctor in the Carson Valley? Call our find-a-physician hotline and let Carson Valley Medical Center’s professionals help you through the process of finding a physician that meets your specific health and insurance coverage needs: (775) 782-1545.

Sources: American Lung Association; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Immunization Action Coalition



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