1. Pneumonia is an illness that is typically the result of a pneumococcus bacterial infection in the lungs, and there are more than eighty different strains and varieties of this bacteria type. The vaccine given will not protect against all of these bacteria, but it does protect against the twenty-three most common types. This vaccine also will not protect against the illness caused by other factors, such as fluid or food particles lodged in the lungs.
2. Certain groups are considered high risk for becoming ill if exposed, and for developing serious complications due to an infection with pneumococcus bacteria. These groups include anyone who is over sixty-five years old, anyone who has a suppressed or weakened immune system, and children under two years old who have certain conditions or diseases which may increase their risks. Certain Alaskan and American Indian groups should also receive the vaccine.
3. As of July of the year 2000, all infants and children should receive the vaccine, starting at two months old, and this is not simply to prevent pneumonia because pneumococcus causes other illnesses and medical conditions. The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics both recommend vaccination for children starting at two months old to prevent infections of the blood stream, meningitis, and other medical problems as well.
4. Any vaccine can have side effects which range from mildly uncomfortable all the way up to deadly. Any individual who has shown a sensitivity to any vaccine should alert their medical provider. Most of the time the side effects from the pneumococcus vaccine are mild, and may include irritation at the site of the injection, a small fever, and a mild feeling of discomfort. In rare circumstances seizures, a severe allergic reaction, or other more serious side effect may occur.
5. Anyone who is at a higher than normal risk for pneumonia should receive the vaccine, and this is true for adults fifty-five years old and older. Aging means a diminished immune system response, so the elderly are more susceptible to infection and illness. An infection with pneumococcus bacteria is one of the top causes of death in the elderly, and a vaccine can greatly lower the risk of this happening in this age group.
6. In adults one dose of this vaccine is usually considered adequate, but in some situations it may be necessary to get a repeat dose for complete protection. Individuals who are sixty-five and older, as well as those who have certain medical conditions, may require two or more doses for lifetime immunity to these bacteria types.
7. Vaccinations against pneumonia are especially important now, because many of the antibiotics which worked against this bacteria are no longer as effective. This means that once the infection starts it may become difficult or impossible to treat successfully, and can result in death in some cases. The vaccine will eliminate this possibility and offers natural protection in most cases, instead of relying on drugs that no longer work as well.