Who Should Get the Pneumococcal Vaccine?

With the global COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever to stay healthy and out of the hospital this cold and flu season. But the flu shot alone may not be all you need to protect yourself from infection. 

Pneumococcal disease kills thousands of Americans every year. Fortunately, the pneumococcal vaccine can help protect you against the various illnesses pneumococcal disease can cause, such as pneumonia. But, should everyone get vaccinated?

The lung specialists here at Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine in Algonquin, Illinois, offer expert diagnosis and treatment of pneumonia. We also know that taking preventive measures, such as taking the pneumococcal vaccine, is usually the best medicine. 

To help you decide if the pneumococcal vaccine is right for you, our team offers this guide with more information about the vaccine and who should get it. 

What is pneumococcal disease?

Pneumococcal disease is any infection caused by the bacterium streptococcus pneumoniae, also called pneumococcus. An infection from streptococcus pneumoniae can lead to a number of illnesses, including the following:

Pneumococcal disease is serious and fatal in about 10% of cases in the United States. People with underlying health conditions and older people are at a higher risk of developing serious and potentially life-threatening complications. 

What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection of your lungs that causes your lungs’ air sacs to get inflamed. Sometimes the air sacs can also become obstructed by a buildup of pus or fluid, which can make it difficult to breathe. 

Symptoms of pneumonia can vary, but the most common signs of pneumonia include:

Pneumonia can be caused by many different types of bacteria, viruses, and fungi, and the disease can vary in severity from mild to life-threatening. One of the most common causes of severe pneumonia is an infection from streptococcus pneumoniae, but fortunately, the pneumococcal vaccine can reduce your risk of getting sick. 

Who should get the pneumococcal vaccine?

Not everyone needs to get the pneumococcal vaccine. Healthy adults ages 18-50 can usually skip the vaccine. Furthermore, if you’re allergic to the vaccine, you shouldn’t get vaccinated. However, allergic reactions are rare. About one in one million people who get the shot have an allergic reaction.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the pneumococcal vaccine for all children under age 2 and all adults age 65 and over. Anyone ages 2-64 with certain medical conditions — such as a weakened immune system, diabetes, and HIV — should also get the vaccine. Finally, all adults over age 19 who smoke should get vaccinated.  

It’s important to note that while the pneumococcal vaccine doesn’t offer 100% protection against pneumonia, it does significantly lower your risk of contracting the disease. 

What’s more? If you get the vaccine but develop pneumonia, it’s likely that your case of the illness will be much milder than if you hadn’t been vaccinated.

How can I learn more about the pneumococcal vaccine and pneumonia? 

It’s important to talk to your doctor about the pneumococcal vaccine and whether it’s right for you. Your provider at Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine will take the time to answer any questions you have about the vaccine.

If you think you may have pneumonia, don’t wait to seek treatment. Your provider at Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine will evaluate your medical history and conduct a physical exam as well as diagnostic tests to diagnose the cause of your pneumonia and create a treatment plan to address your needs and help you recover.   

Are you ready to learn more about the pneumococcal vaccine and see if it’s right for you? To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine. Telemedicine appointments are also available for your convenience.

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