THE PNEUMONIA VACCINE: WHO KNEW? Each year, pneumonia is responsible for over 12,000 hospitalizations in Canada. Children and those over 65 are hardest hit; those with chronic disease such as asthma and COPD run a serious risk; but no one is immune. The good news? The flu vaccine can help prevent pneumonia caused by the flu virus. And an inoculation with the pneumococcal vaccine offers protection against bacterial pneumonia that can lead to complications, a hospital stay or even death.
Pneumococcal vaccinations help protect you against pneumococcal infections such as pneumonia, bacteremia (blood infection) and meningitis (infection of the membrane surrounding your brain and spinal cord).
For the best protection against pneumococcal disease, adults aged 65 years and older should speak to their health care provider about getting both the Prevnar® 13 and the Pneumovax® 23 vaccines. Those not previously immunized should receive the Prevnar® 13 vaccine first followed by the Pneumovax® 23 vaccine at least eight weeks later. Those who have previously received the Pneumovax® 23 vaccine should receive the Prevnar® 13 vaccine at least one year after receiving the Pneumovax® 23 vaccine. Source: Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI)
Factors that increase your risk of getting pneumonia include:
- Cigarette smoking
- Chronic lung disease (e.g., chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, bronchiectasis, cystic fibrosis) or other chronic diseases (e.g., heart, kidney, liver, anemia, diabetes)
- Very young (less developed immune system) and very old (less effective immune system)
- Residents of a nursing home or other chronic care facility
- Being a patient in a hospital
- “Aspiration pneumonia” can occur when something is aspirated (inhaled) into the lungs. This can be due to:
- Brain dysfunction (e.g., dementia, stroke, brain injury) increasing the risk that you will aspirate (inhale) food
- Overdose of alcohol or drugs increasing the risk that you will aspirate (inhale) vomit
- Weakened immune system (e.g., HIV/AIDS, taking corticosteroid pills, organ transplant, being treated for cancer)
- Recent surgery