Since it’s the season to talk about immunization and flu shots, I thought I would also write about adult pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs and needlessly affects millions of people worldwide each year that can cause mild to severe illness in people of all ages. Common signs of pneumonia can include cough, fever, and trouble breathing.
In Canada, only 16.7% adults with chronic medical conditions are immunized against Streptococcus pneumonia. That’s right –only a small percentage of Canadians are immunized.
As a result there is a dramatic increase in the number of people who get the disease and about 1,500 Canadian adults die from it every year.
Who Is At Risk for Pneumonia?
Certain people are more likely to become ill with pneumonia:
- Adults 65 years or older
- Children younger than 5 years old
- People who have underlying medical conditions (like asthma, diabetes or heart disease)
- People who smoke cigarettes
- People with immune suppression diseases, such as HIV, leukemia and other cancers
However, Pneumonia can often be prevented and can usually be treated. Many of these deaths——could be prevented with vaccines and appropriate treatment (like antibiotics and antivirals).
A vaccination is the best way to prevent the disease or lower your risk, while reducing the risk of the population at large coming down with pneumonia.
Pneumococcal Recommendations for Older Adults:
There are two different types of pneumococcal vaccines for adults and guidelines are NOT the same in the US and Canada.
- US Guidelines: One dose of PCV13 is recommended for all adults 65 years of age or older who have not previously received the vaccine. A dose of PPSV23 should be given at a later date (anytime after 8 weeks from the initial vaccine)
- Canadian Guidelines: Currently differ for those of us that are 65 and healthy, or those with significant underlying disease. Healthy 65 year old adults are advised to simply take PPSV23. Those with higher risk would follow the guidelines of both vaccines
- Recently the Canadian government included vaccinations for individuals that required medical attention for asthma in the past 12 months
Pneumococcal Recommendations for Children:
- Children with asthma younger than 18 years should receive both vaccines
What you can do
- Encourage friends and loved ones with certain health conditions, like diabetes and asthma, to get vaccinated
- Make sure children get vaccinated
- Practice good hygiene; wash your hands regularly or use alcohol based hand sanitizers
- Keep your immune system strong-get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and health a healthy diet