If 2020 taught us anything, it’s the importance of protecting your health. And, while the flu shot and a potential coronavirus vaccine are top of the mind for many people, there are still other vaccinations that can significantly improve your chances of defending yourself from infectious viruses and bacteria. Such is the case with the pneumonia shot. But what, exactly, is pneumonia? When is a vaccine recommended? For how long does its protection last? And, what are the side effects?
What is pneumonia?
Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs. It occurs when the air sacs within the lungs become inflamed and filled with pus. This makes it difficult to breathe in the adequate amount of oxygen needed to reach your bloodstream. The severity of pneumonia can range from mild to life-threatening — especially in individuals with a weakened immune system.
It’s possible to get it in only one lung or in both of them, and the condition is contagious. While lifestyle factors — such as smoking or excessive consumption of alcohol — can increase the risk of infection, it’s also possible to get it from touching a contaminated surface after someone who has been coughing or sneezing touched it.
Symptoms of Pneumonia
The symptoms of pneumonia will vary depending on the person’s underlying health, as well as how severe they are experiencing the illness. The most common ones include:
- Chest pain when you take in deep breaths or cough
- Shortness of breath
When is a pneumonia vaccine recommended?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the pneumonia vaccine for all children who are younger than two years of age. It is also recommended for adults who are 56 years of age or older.
There are two types of pneumonia vaccines: pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PV13) and pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23). Each vaccine protects against different types of bacteria.
PV13 protects against 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria. It can also help prevent ear infections that are often the result of those types of bacteria. PV13 is recommended for younger children and for immunocompromised senior adults. If the patient is a child, they need the vaccine at certain intervals during infancy. If the patient is an adult, they only need one shot.
The PPSV23 vaccine protects against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria and is recommended for smokers and all adults 65 years of age or older. Typically, it only requires a single shot. However, patients with certain chronic medical conditions may need an additional vaccination.
How long does a pneumonia shot last?
How long protection from a pneumonia vaccine lasts and how often to take the vaccine depends on the patient’s age and overall health. Infants will get the vaccine every several months, per their pediatrician’s recommendations. Senior adults who are otherwise healthy only need to get it once during their lifetime. Finally, people getting the vaccine for the first time between ages two and 64 may need to get between two and three shots if they have a weakened immune system. Smokers also need to be vaccinated two or three times during their lifetime.
The pneumonia vaccine is not recommended for people who have had severe allergic reactions to diphtheria toxoid, have had allergic reactions to a pneumonia shot in the past, or who are very sick. You should talk to your doctor about your medical history to find out your options.
Side Effects of Pneumonia Vaccine
As with any medication, there is a risk of side effects from the pneumonia vaccine. However, they are usually harmless. The most common ones include:
- Low-grade fever
- Irritation at the site of injection
In babies, it’s possible to experience additional side effects. These include:
- Lack of appetite
- An inability to fall asleep
Seek medical attention immediately if you or your loved one experience signs of an allergic reaction. These include some or all of the following:
- Breathing difficulties
- Swelling of the mouth, lips, and/or tongue
- Skin rash
If You Need a Pneumonia Vaccine, Nurse Practitioners of Florida Can Help
At Nurse Practitioners of Florida, we have a dedicated team of certified nurse practitioners who have an unwavering commitment to providing you with care and compassion. When you call any of our locations, you will be greeted by a live person who’s ready to offer acute medical care as well as preventive measures — including pneumonia vaccine. And, above everything else, you will be treated like family.