I get an annual flu shot, but while I’ve pondered the pneumonia (pneumooccal) vaccine before, it’s never something I have personally made a move on. Should I?
The facts on the pneumonia vaccine
Adults and children with asthma are at increased risk of complications from pneumonia, as are those with other forms of lung disease like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease of cystic fibrosis, those with heart disease, and those with diabetes. 1 Lung disease may make pneumonia symptoms more severe, heart disease may inhibit the body’s ability to fight off pneumonia without putting added strain on an already damaged heart, and both lung disease and diabetes can result in a degree of immunocompromise that makes people more susceptible to acquiring viruses like pneumonia (or the flu), and the complications from these viruses more severe.
The pneumonia vaccine comes in two forms, and I’ll be honest, differentiating the two is making my head spin! In addition to preventing infection by a number of strands of bacteria causing pneumonia, both vaccines help protect against meningitis (spinal cord/brain membrane infection 3 and bacteremia (blood infection).2
- PCV13 (Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine) protects against 13 of over 90 types of pneumococcal bacteria (bacteria that causes pneumonia).
- PPSV23 (Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine) protects agains 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria.
Some people will be recommended to receive a second dose of the pneumonia vaccine, or both vaccines at separate times. Your doctor will recommend the correct vaccines and schedule for you, including whether or not you need multiple doses—some doctors will re-vaccinate 5-10 years following the first vaccination, others will not.2 Your response will vary depending on your health and age—unfortunately, like the flu shot, the pneumococcal vaccine is not 100% effective 100% of the time (but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth getting!).2
Should people with asthma get the pneumonia vaccine?
Historically, the recommendations have been mixed whether or not asthmatics need to receive the pneumonia vaccine. The CDC notes that people aged 2 and older “at increased risk for disease [from pneumonia]” be4, including those with chronic lung disease.5 Certain programs or insurance providers may cover the cost of the pneumonia vaccine, both in general or for high-risk individuals like those with asthma.
The US Department of Health & Human Services website Vaccines.gov recommends dose of PPSV23 is recommended for anyone over the age of two who has lung disease, and specifically noted that adults 19 through 64 years old with asthma should receive the vaccine (the vaccine is recommended for anyone over age 65 as well, presumably why the lung disease specific cut-off is age 64).3
The final answer… Would appear to be yes—even if your doctor, pharmacy, and Facebook ads haven’t waged a full fledged mass media awareness campaign on you to receive the pneumococcal vaccine if you have asthma, it appears to be recommended for people with asthma—I’ve added it to my list of topics to discuss with Dr. Smartypants in mid-December. Different sources I have read seem to recommend equally the 13 and 23 strand forms of the vaccine for people with asthma (because, as I said, it is confusing)—ask your doctor which vaccine is the better choice for you.
Have you received the pneumonia vaccine in addition to an annual flu shot? Are you considering asking your doctor about the pneumococcal vaccine?