Influenza (flu), coronavirus (COVID-19), and allergies aren’t the only respiratory illnesses or infections to stress about this fall season—especially if you have underlying health concerns, are immunocompromised, or are an at-risk adult over the age of 65. For these individuals, pneumococcal disease and other relative conditions (like pneumonia and bronchitis) are also cause for concern. Why? For seniors, the risk of contracting pneumonia is exceptionally higher and much more common when the weather is changing. Due to the high risk level, it’s strongly encouraged that adults age 65 and over receive the “pneumonia” vaccine—yes, it exists! In this article, DispatchHealth is covering everything you need to know about the pneumococcal vaccine for seniors, including what it is and the benefits of receiving it.
The Importance of Receiving the Pneumococcal Vaccine
Fact: Thousands of adults are killed by the pneumococcal disease every year in the United States—especially adults 65 or older, individuals with chronic health concerns, and those who are immunocompromised.
Myth: Everyone knows that there’s a vaccine available to prevent pneumococcal disease from wreaking havoc in compromised individuals.
There are an exceptional number of adults unaware of the pneumococcal disease’s dangers and the pneumococcal vaccine’s existence and benefits. To remove yourself from this statistic, here are the facts:
What is Pneumococcal Disease?
This contagious disease is caused by pneumococcal bacteria (pneumococcus), which is the root concern behind many mild to severe respiratory infections. Pneumococcal bacteria can spread from person to person easily via respiratory droplets shared by coughing, sneezing, or close contact to an infected individual or surface. This disease typically starts as a mild infection in the nose, throat, ears, and sinuses—becoming extreme once it spreads to other parts of the body. In severe cases, an individual can develop pneumonia, bacteremia, and meningitis—which can lead to complications and disabilities (like brain damage).
What is a Pneumococcal Vaccine?
Engineered to prevent the pneumococcal disease, the pneumococcal (pneumonia) vaccine is an injection that helps restrain illnesses caused by pneumococcal bacteria—which includes pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, bacteremia, and even meningitis. There are two types of pneumococcal vaccines:
- PCV13 (pneumococcal conjugate vaccine) – protects against 13 strains of pneumococcal bacteria and pneumonia—easy to remember because 13 is in the name!
- PPSV23 (pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine) – protects against 23 strains of pneumococcal bacteria—easy to remember because 23 is in the name!
Who Needs the Pneumococcal Vaccine(s)?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the PPSV23 vaccine for all adults 65 years or older as well as adults 19 years or older with certain medical conditions that could put them at greater risk of infection. The PCV13 vaccine, on the other hand, should be a shared decision between the patient (aged 65 or older) and clinician due to additional medical considerations.
When to Get the Vaccine & What to Expect
Of course, before seeking the pneumococcal vaccines, it’s important to first speak with your primary care physician and other providers in your healthcare network. Both vaccines are safe but can have side effects (such as soreness around the injection site) and should be avoided by individuals with allergic reactions to any of the components in the vaccine(s). Keep in mind, it’s recommended that you not receive both vaccines at the same time. Talk to your healthcare provider to determine if both vaccinations are the right choice for your needs. If both vaccines are needed, PCV13 should be given prior to PPSV23. It’s important to schedule a separate visitation at least one year after the professionally suggested PCV13 vaccination to receive a dose of the PPSV23 vaccine.
Can You Get the Pneumonia Vaccine & the Influenza Vaccine?
With flu season here, we’ll also note that you can get the influenza vaccine and either pneumococcal vaccine at the same time. At-risk adults and seniors should always get the influenza vaccine annually, as the flu can further increase risk of contracting pneumococcal disease. However, while you do need the influenza vaccine once a year, you don’t need the pneumococcal vaccine annually. In fact, all adults 65 years or older should only receive one dose of PPSV23.
How DispatchHealth Is Improving Healthcare
While pneumococcal vaccines can protect at-risk individuals from getting pneumonia and developing extreme complications from other respiratory infections, contraction can still happen. For seniors, in particular, pneumonia can be life threatening—especially in those with chronic conditions (like COPD and diabetes). Pneumonia can also occur post infection, developing after the flu or COVID-19—making it important for at-risk adults to watch for symptoms.
If you do have symptoms, reach out to DispatchHealth for on-demand services that come to you. We provide an urgent healthcare alternative for those with chronic conditions and acute medical concerns, treating a variety of health complications (like flu, pneumonia, and COVID-19) in the comfort of the home. Our medical teams will come prepared with nearly all the tools and technologies found in a traditional ER setting, but without the disruptive or impersonal medical experience. What’s more, our streamlined service is compatible with most insurances—including Medicaid and Medicare—and we offer an affordable flat rate for uninsured patients.
This flu season, you can count on DispatchHealth. We can also test for COVID-19 as well as treat and support COVID-19 patients. To request care, simply contact us via phone, mobile app, or through our website.
DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies.
Sources referenced in this article: