Should you get the pneumonia vaccination?

Pneumonia Flow Chart

Are you at risk for pneumonia? This deadly disease reaches its peak during the winter months, but it can be contracted any time of the year.

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 900,000 Americans get pneumonia every year and 45,000 to 63,000 people die from pneumonia-related complications. While a flu shot is encouraged every year, not everybody needs a pneumonia vaccine, says Brian Curtis, MD, director of Specialty Care Physician Practice for OSF Medical Group in Peoria.

“The odds of getting pneumonia as a young, healthy adult are pretty low, while the odds of getting the flu are pretty good,” Dr. Curtis says. “Immunizing is a very advantageous way to help prevent a lot of illnesses. You protect yourself and you also protect those around you. There will always be a subsection of the population that will be vulnerable to pneumonia due to medical conditions or because they cannot get vaccinated. Getting yourself vaccinated also helps keep that vulnerable population safer.”

Young, healthy adults who unfortunately get pneumonia can expect to experience cough, fever and a prescription for about 5-7 days’ worth of antibiotics. However, people with medical conditions are at a higher risk of complications that can lead to hospitalization and even death.

Vaccine types

There are two types of pneumonia vaccine. The first vaccine is the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13). The second vaccine is the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23). Healthy adults under the age of 65 don’t need either one. However, depending on your health, you might need to get both to protect yourself from pneumonia and any possibly dangerous complications.

PCV13

This vaccine is given to infants in a series of shots until the age of 15 months. The U.S. government recommends that a person receives one dose between the age of 6 and 18. Between the ages of 19 and 64, anybody with a blood disorder, a damaged or missing spleen, a compromised immune system, kidney disease or cancer, should get this vaccine.

At age 65, everyone should get this vaccine and follow it up with a dose of the other pneumonia vaccine type at least one year later.

PPSV23

Like the other vaccine type, this vaccine should be given to all people age 65 or older. Anybody age 19 or older who is a smoker, or who has asthma, should get this vaccine, too.

People between the ages of 2 and 64 should get this vaccine, too, if they have heart disease, lung disease, sickle cell anemia, diabetes, alcoholism, a compromised immune system, a damaged or missing spleen or cancer.*

For more details about who should get the pneumonia vaccine, and when they should get it, please visit the CDC website and the HHS website.

Unlike the flu vaccine, adults do not need to get the pneumonia shot every year. The pneumonia vaccines typically last about 10 years, according to Dr. Curtis. We have provided a convenient chart to help you determine if you are at a higher risk of complications and should contact your doctor’s office to ask about the pneumonia vaccine.

If you have any questions or concerns about whether or not you need the pneumonia vaccine, please call your doctor’s office. Don’t have a primary care physician? Find one here.

* Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)