Is There a Pneumonia Vaccine or Not?

There is indeed a pneumonia vaccine and there are two main versions of it: PPSV23 targets 23 types of pneumonia-causing bacteria, and PCV13 is for another 13.
Is There a Pneumonia Vaccine or Not?

Last update: 24 September, 2021

It isn’t easy to answer the question of whether there’s a pneumonia vaccine or not. The most straightforward answer is yes, kind of… This is because there are different types of pneumonia and no vaccine targets them all.

Pneumonia is the leading cause of death from infection worldwide. It’s a serious disease that can turn lethal under certain circumstances. It always produces inflammation in the lungs and damage to the tissue of these organs, sometimes impairing the quality of life in the medium and long term.

Doctors insist that one of the most effective ways to resist the disease is through vaccination against pneumonia and influenza. Many people don’t get one because they’re unaware of the serious risks posed by these diseases.

The risks of pneumonia

There are a large number of deaths worldwide from pneumococcal pneumonia every year. This disease claims the lives of one in every 20 people who contract it. Furthermore, it’s the most common form of pneumonia and due to bacteria that enter the alveoli of the lungs.

Another infection resulting from pneumonia is pneumococcal bacteremia, which causes the death of one in five people who contract it. Pneumococcal meningitis has the same proportions and a notorious severity. All these infections are due to Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, whose common name is the pneumococcus.

These bacteria cause anything from mild to severe infections that spread through contact, by proximity to infected persons, and from droplets spread by coughing and sneezing.

Some asymptomatic people can transmit the disease so many of the transmitters don’t actually have evident signs of pneumonia. Thus, it’s essential to wash your hands as often as you can.

An X-ray of lungs.
The lungs are the target organ of pneumonia.

Pneumonia vaccine

The pneumonia vaccine offers protection against all forms of pneumococcal infection — except those caused by fungi. They are, therefore, an effective measure to take care of respiratory health.

The pneumonia vaccine currently available is the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine or PPSV23. It protects against 23 types of bacteria that cause pneumococcal disease. Also available are the thirteen valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCV13).

Most people need one dose of PPSV23 every five years to protect against the disease. Only in the case of high-risk patients is the second dose of that vaccine recommended prior to or in conjunction with PCV13.

Furthermore, at least one year should elapse between doses. Also, a physician must indicate which vaccine is best for every patient and how many doses they require, according to their specific health condition.

Who needs a pneumonia vaccine?

A doctor preparing a syringe.
People over 65 years of age need a vaccine against pneumonia.

Pneumonia can strike people of any age and condition. However, in principle, adults over 65 years of age should get a vaccine as they’re the most at-risk population.

It’s usual for the elderly to receive PCV13 first, followed by PPSV23 a year later. When they received a PCV13 at a younger age, they mustn’t receive another. In any case, the physician will decide what’s best for every case.

In addition, children under 5 years of age and adults with chronic respiratory, cardiac or hepatic diseases should get a vaccine. It’s also useful in people who are immunocompromised, have cochlear implants, smoke cigarettes, or drink large amounts of alcohol.

Adverse reactions to the vaccine are rare. Generally, only in some cases does it cause redness or mild swelling in the arm. However, those with previous allergic reactions to any of the components shouldn’t get it.

Prevention is always better

The existence of these pneumonia vaccine variants is an invitation to prevent the disease. Their availability allows people at high risk of severe forms of the disease to avoid it. Health professionals will indicate it when necessary. Consult your doctor if you think you might be part of the high-risk groups.

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The pneumonia vaccine (or pneumococcal vaccine) was first licensed in 1977. Pneumonia is a common lung infection that can affect anyone.

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