Immunization Schedule, Adults (cont.)
Many bacteria can cause respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia. Pneumococcal organisms are the most common bacteria causing pneumonia. Pneumonia is especially dangerous for people with other serious medical conditions. Each year, about 1 million people are hospitalized for pneumonia.
The pneumonia vaccine immunizes against the 23 most common strains of the pneumococcus bacteria. It does not contain any live bacteria. The healthier the immune system of the vaccine recipient, the better their immunity after the vaccine. Healthy young people have an excellent response compared to those who are older or those with a weakened immune system (such as people with diabetes, alcoholism, or cancer).
- Who gets the vaccine: The immunization is recommended for adults 65 years and older; for anyone aged 2-64 years who has a chronic illness or other risk factors such as diabetes, lung, heart, or liver disease; for Alaska Natives, certain American Indian populations; for people who had their spleen removed; for people with sickle cell disease; for those with weakened immune systems (HIV, cancer, chronic kidney failure, organ transplantation); and for people receiving chemotherapy for cancer.
- When given: The shot is routinely given as a onetime dose. It gives lifelong immunity. It can be given to someone who doesn't know if he or she has had the vaccine before. If the first dose was given before the age of 65 years and it has been more than five years since, another shot can be given. For those at highest risk, a onetime revaccination after five years is recommended.
- Side effects: There may be joint aches and tenderness and redness at the injection site. Fever can occur.
- The shot is not for anyone who has had an allergic reaction to the vaccine in the past. Pregnant or breastfeeding women may take the vaccine.
Gregory L Walker, MD, FACEP, Ped EM
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