Pneumococcal Vaccination (Pneumonia Vaccine)
George Schiffman, MD, FCCP
Dr. Schiffman received his B.S. degree with High Honors in biology from Hobart College in 1976. He then moved to Chicago where he studied biochemistry at the University of Illinois, Chicago Circle. He attended Rush Medical College where he received his M.D. degree in 1982 and was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society. He completed his Internal Medicine internship and residency at the University of California, Irvine.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
- What is pneumococcal vaccination?
- Who should consider pneumococcal vaccination?
- Who should not receive pneumococcal vaccine? What about pregnancy?
- How is pneumococcal vaccine administered?
- What are side effects of pneumococcal vaccine?
- What if it is not clear what a person's vaccination history is?
- How long must a person wait to receive other vaccinations?
- Vaccination of children recommended
- What are the current recommendations for administration of pneumococcal vaccine in healthy adults?
What is pneumococcal vaccination?
Pneumococcal vaccination is a method of preventing a specific type of lung infection (pneumonia) that is caused by the pneumococcus (Streptococcus pneumoniae) bacterium. There are more than 80 different types of pneumococcus bacteria -- 23 of them covered by the vaccine. The vaccine is injected into the body to stimulate the normal immune system to produce antibodies that are directed against pneumococcus bacteria.
This method of stimulating the normal immune system to be directed against a specific microbe is called immunization. Pneumococcal vaccination is also referred to as pneumococcal immunization.
Pneumococcal vaccination does not protect against pneumonia caused by microbes other than pneumococcus bacteria, nor does it protect against pneumococcal bacterial strains not included in the vaccine. It is reassuring to note that of the 80 different serotypes, the vast majority of infections are caused by the 23 serotypes contained in the vaccine.
In children, especially under 2 years of age, a special conjugated vaccine has been developed to stimulate less developed immune systems. Originally only covering seven serotypes, the newer vaccine released in 2010 now covers 13 serotypes of pneumococcus (Prevnar 13).
Who should consider pneumococcal vaccination?
Pneumococcal vaccination should be considered by people in the following groups:
- Adults 65 years of age and older
- People > 2 years of age with chronic heart or lung disorders, including congestive heart failure, diabetes mellitus, chronic liver disease, alcoholism, spinal fluid leaks, cardiomyopathy, chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or emphysema
- People > 2 years of age with spleen dysfunction (such as sickle cell disease) or lack of spleen function (asplenia), blood malignancy (leukemias), multiple myeloma, kidney failure, organ transplantation, or immunosuppressive conditions, including HIV infection
- Alaskan natives and certain American Indian populations
- If elective surgical removal of the spleen (splenectomy) or immunosuppressive therapy is planned, the vaccine is given two weeks prior to the procedure, if possible.
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