Pneumococcal disease is quite common in children, but adults face a greater risk of serious illness and fatality. Thousands of adults suffer from pneumococcal disease with severe infection of the bloodstream (bacteremia), lungs (Pneumonia) and lining of the spinal cord and brain (Meningitis). Older adults and people suffering from certain health conditions are more likely to contract pneumococcal disease. Pneumococcal disease can be prevented with the help of Pneumococcal vaccine.
How Does The Pneumococcal Vaccine Work in Adults?
There are 2 types of pneumococcal vaccines – Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine or PCV13 and Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine or PPSV23. PCV13 offers protection against 13 of kinds of pneumococcal bacteria that cause serious infections like pneumonia. PPSV23 vaccine offers protection against another 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria. None of these can prevent all types of pneumococcal infections, but they do work against more than 30 common severe types.
One who needs a pneumococcal vaccine should take both the shots, i.e. first, the PCV13 shot and then the PPSV23 shot after a gap of a year or more. Generally, one dose of each of these is enough to protect an individual against the pneumococcal infection for their entire life. However, at times they may need to take a booster shot of PPSV23 if recommended by their doctor.
Who Should Get Vaccinated Against Pneumococcal Disease?
People Aged over 65: As one grows older, their immune system starts losing its ability to work as efficiently as before. So it becomes tougher for them to fight infections and easier to catch pneumococcal infection.
People with Weak Immune Systems: Many diseases can weaken the immune system and reduce its ability to fight infections. People suffering from cardiac ailments, asthma, diabetes, COPD, emphysema, HIV or AIDS are more likely to have an underactive immune system and thus face greater risk of contracting Pneumococcal disease.
Smokers: Tiny hairs that line the inside of the lung are responsible for filtering out the germs that cause pneumococcal infections like pneumonia. Excessive smoking damages these hairs making them incapable of stopping the germs. Hence, chain smokers are very likely to catch such pneumococcal infections.
Heavy Drinkers: People who drink a lot of alcohol tend to have a weakened immunity and the white blood cells in their body, which are responsible for battling infections, do not work efficiently making these individuals highly susceptible to pneumococcal disease and hence need to get vaccinated against it.
People Recovering From A Chronic Illness or A Surgery: When someone is recovering from a serious injury, illness, or surgery, their immune system weakens and is no more able to fight off infections as efficiently as before. Such people need timely vaccination to ward off pneumococcal infections.
Who Need Not Get Pneumococcal Vaccine?
Everybody does not need to get a pneumococcal vaccine. Healthy adults aged between 18 to 64 years, can skip this vaccine. People who are allergic to the components of the pneumococcal vaccine should not take it. Although there are yet no evidences of pneumococcal vaccine having any negative impact on pregnancy, expecting women are still advised to take pneumococcal vaccine before getting pregnant and not during. People who are suffering from a serious illness should wait till they recover and then take pneumococcal vaccine.
When Should One Get Vaccinated?
Pneumococcal disease is not a seasonal illness like flu and can happen at any time of the year. So, one must take the Pneumococcal vaccine promptly, whenever their doctor feels it is needed.
What Are The Risks Associated With Pneumococcal Vaccine in Adults?
Certain people can experience some side effects of the pneumococcal vaccine. These side effects are mild and go away in a few days. Some of these side effects are mild fever, sore muscles, irritability, fatigue, headache, chills, loss of appetite and soreness, redness and swelling in the area of the body where the shot was given. Less than 1% of people who get Pneumococcal vaccine have such kind of side effects. Occurrence of any severe allergic reaction from Pneumococcal vaccine is even rarer.
Timely administration of this Pneumococcal vaccine can help protect adults against many pneumococcal infections effectively. Although, the pneumococcal vaccine cannot prevent all cases of pneumococcal disease, but it surely can decrease the chances of contracting the illness. Even if someone who has taken the shot gets pneumococcal disease, the severity of the pneumococcal infection will be less.
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