Pneumococcal Vaccines for Seniors
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What is a pneumococcal vaccine?
A pneumococcal vaccine is an injection that can prevent pneumococcal disease. A pneumococcal disease is any illness that is caused by pneumococcal bacteria, including pneumonia. In fact, the most common cause of pneumonia is pneumococcal bacteria. This type of bacteria can also cause ear infections, sinus infections, and meningitis.
Adults age 65 or older are amongst the highest risk groups for getting pneumococcal disease.
To prevent pneumococcal disease, there are two types of pneumococcal vaccines available in Canada: pneumococcal 23-valent polysaccharide (PNEU-P-23) vaccine and the pneumococcal 13-valent conjugate (PNEU-C-13) vaccine.
What is PNEU-P-23?
PNEU-P-23 protects against 23 types of bacteria that cause pneumococcal disease. It is recommended for all adults 65 and older. Anyone with certain medical conditions who is 2 years or older may also need the vaccine.
Most people only need one dose of PNEU-P-23. But even if you’ve already had one dose before turning 65, you should get another dose of PNEU-P-23 after you turn 65 (as long as 5 years has passed since the previous Pneu-P-23 dose). Your healthcare provider may also recommend that you get a dose of another type of pneumococcal vaccine, PNEU-C-13.
What is PNEU-C-13?
PNEU-C-13 is a vaccine that protects against 13 different types of bacteria that cause pneumococcal disease. Infants and young children usually get 3 doses of Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine: at 2, 4, and 12 months of age.
Your healthcare provider may decide to give you PNEU-C-13 if you have certain high risk conditions. People with these conditions can receive both PNEU-P-23 and PNEU-C-13 at scheduled intervals. Discuss your options with your healthcare provider.
Path to improved health
Pneumococcal vaccines can protect you against getting pneumonia, which is contagious and spreads from close, person-to-person contact. Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs and can lead to many symptoms, including:
- difficulty breathing
- chest pains
- bringing up mucus when you cough
For seniors, pneumonia can be very serious and life-threatening. This is especially true if you have a chronic condition, such as diabetes or COPD. Pneumonia can also develop after you’ve had a case of the flu or a respiratory virus. It is extremely important to stay current on flu shots each year in addition to your pneumococcal vaccines.
While PNEU-P-23 and PNEU-C-13 do not protect against all types of pneumonia, they can make it less likely that you will experience severe — and possibly life-threatening — complications from the illness.
Things to consider
It is important to talk with your healthcare provider before getting any vaccine. Tell your healthcare provider if you have had an allergic reaction to vaccines in the past or if you have any severe allergies. You should also tell them if you are feeling sick. People with minor illnesses, such as a cold, can still be vaccinated. But if you are moderately or severely ill, your healthcare provider may want you to wait until you feel better before getting a vaccine.
If you see signs of a severe allergic reaction after you leave your healthcare provider’s office, call 911 and go to the hospital immediately.