Do you need a pneumococcal vaccine?

People with asthma, COPD, and other chronic lung conditions are considered “high-risk,” because these conditions make them more susceptible to infections and more likely to experience serious illness if they become sick with a virus or bacterial infection.

For this reason, doctors often recommend that their patients with chronic lung conditions consider being vaccinated against preventable illness.

Fortunately, new vaccines have recently become available to help prevent serious illness in high risk and elderly individuals. One of these is the pneumococcal vaccine. Some people refer to it as the pneumonia vaccine, because one of the things it can help protect against is bacterial pneumonia. But the pneumococcal vaccine also protects against other potentially serious problems including blood stream infections, meningitis, ear and skin infections.

Who needs the vaccine?

The pneumococcal vaccine is effective against the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria. Most young, healthy people will only experience mild illness if exposed to Streptococcus pneumoniae, but older adults and younger people with chronic underlying medical conditions are at risk of severe illness, hospitalization and even death if they become sick. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends the pneumococcal vaccine for children and infants younger than five years.

Which vaccine is right for me?

Pneumococcal vaccines are evolving and the number and type of vaccine you receive will depend on several factors, including whether you have ever received the vaccine before, and if so, which version you have gotten.

There are two types of pneumococcal vaccines available in the United States: pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCV13, PCV15 or PCV20) and pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23). Adults who receive PCV13 or PCV15 should receive PPSV23 at least one year later. Those who receive PCV20 do not need a follow up vaccine.

Unlike flu, pneumococcal disease is not seasonal, so the vaccine may be taken at any time of year. It is important to discuss vaccine recommendations with your doctor and together to decide which are right for you, and when to receive them.

For further information or to schedule an appointment for a pneumococcal vaccine, call our office at (804) 320-4243.