This vaccine protects against the majority of serotypes of the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria. This bacteria is a common cause of pneumonia (hence the term “pneumonia” vaccine) but also causes other invasive disease such as bacteremia and meningitis. The vaccine is not as effective as we would like - vaccinated people can still get infections with this bacteria. Nonetheless, numerous studies show that infection rates are less in vaccinated patients and illnesses that do occur are less severe.
In healthy adults, vaccination is advised for those 65 years of age or older. A revaccination (i.e. second dose) is not routinely recommended. If a vaccine was given prior to age 65 in this group, it can be repeated after age 65 and 5 years after the first vaccine. Note that revaccination every 5 years is NOT routinely recommended.
Vaccination for adults less than 65 is recommended for individuals with the following:
- Chronic disorders of the lungs, heart, liver or kidney
- Functional or anatomic asplenia (eg. sickle cell disease or splenectomy)
- Immunosuppressive conditions such as lymphoma, HIV infection and many others
- Residents of long-term care facilities
Revaccination in 5 years after the first dose is suggested for the higher risk patients in these groups.
Local reactions at the injection site can occur that include swelling, warmth and redness. Rarely, a reaction resembling cellulitis can occur shortly after vaccination. The vaccine is a sterile polysaccharide that is non-infectious.
We document in the patient chart when the vaccine is given and encourage all patients to make a notation in their own personal medical records. People with uncertain or unknown vaccination status should be vaccinated.
The pneumococcal bacteria is steadily becoming resistant to available antibiotics. For decades, doctors and patients have seen the severe disease it can cause. We believe that good preventative medicine should include this vaccine. Ask about it at your next office visit.
Several other vaccines are available including Yellow Fever, Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B, for travel protection. Other vaccines are available as needed. A new section of Shingles vaccine is being prepared.