Doctors Recommend Vaccine to Protect You Against Pneumonia

By: Jessa Goddard Email
By: Jessa Goddard Email

Knoxville (WVLT) -- We've heard plenty about why you should or shouldn't get a flu shot, but there's another vaccine you may want to consider this season.

Volunteer TV Medical Reporter Jessa Goddard has the details on the pneumonia shot.'

At grocery store clinics, doctor's offices, and walk-in clinics across East Tennessee and the country, there is no shortage of flu vaccine this year.

People are rolling up their sleeves to get a flu shot before the season peaks.

While you are at it, doctors say you should also consider protecting yourself against the less common, but much dangerous, pneumococcal bacteria.

The adult pneumonia shot, Pneumovax, protects against 23 strains of the bacteria that commonly causes pneumonia.

"It addresses about 23 strains of the most common cause of pneumonia, that's the strep pneumonae bacteria. And it can be very effective, we think, in preventing people from having the invasion of the bacteria into their bloodstream," said family practice physician Dr. Jon Parham.

Only 57% of people age 65 and older who are advised to get a pneumonia vaccine have ever gotten one.

In addition to people 65 and older, people with special health problems such as alcoholism, heart or lung disease, kidney failure, diabetes, HIV infection or certain types of cancer should also be vaccinated.

Dr. Parham says the vaccine doesn't prevent all cases of pneumonia, but it's very effective in protecting people from the more aggressive forms.

"It really doesn't prevent the pneumonia. The pneumonia may happen, but it helps to prevent this from being a serious disease. Because, about 40,000 people a year die from pneumococcal disease," said Dr. Parham.

Approximately 175,000 people are hospitalized each year with pneumococcal disease.

About half of the people who die are 65 and older.

Drugs such as penicillin were once effective in treating these infections, but the disease has become more resistant, making treatment more difficult.


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