Pneumonia Vaccine: How Often Should You Get It?

In the U.S., pneumococcal disease is responsible for killing thousands of people each year and about 18,000 of these are people older than 65. Thousands of adults have to stay in the hospital for proper treatment because the disease can cause several complications, including infections of the lining of the spinal cord and brain, bloodstream, and lungs. To ensure you do not have to deal with these complications, it is important to receive vaccinations for pneumococcal disease. The vaccine you receive contains the bacterium called Streptococcus pneumoniae that helps build immunity against bacterial pneumonia. While the vaccine definitely helps, you need to know when to get pneumonia vaccine. How often should you get the vaccine is anther question people ask. Here is the answer.

How Often Should I Get Pneumonia Vaccine?

If you are over 65 but are overall healthy, you should get a one-time vaccination with the pneumonia shot. You do not require a booster shot in this case, but some doctors recommend getting a second shot 5-10 years after the first one. In case you smoke, have chronic lung disease, or have impaired immunity, you should get your first pneumonia shot whenever you want. The same holds true for anyone who has a dysfunctional spleen.

The frequency of pneumonia vaccine depends on your age and overall health. However, it is usually enough to get the pneumonia shot once or twice during adulthood to protect yourself from pneumococcal disease. It is different from flu shots that you need to get every year. The reason is pneumonia virus does not change constantly as in the case of the influenza virus. Because the influenza virus mutates constantly, the vaccine that may have worked last year may no longer be effective in the next year.

How Often Should My Children Get Pneumonia Vaccine?

The age of your child plays a big role in determining the frequency of getting pneumonia vaccine. How often should your child have the vaccine at different ages?

Children Younger than 2 Years Old

Your infants will get PCV13 vaccine as a series of four doses. The first dose will be given at 2 months, second at 4 months, third at 6 months, and the last one between 12 months and 15 months. Your children should get the vaccine even if they miss their shots in the beginning.

Children from 2 to 5 Years Old

Children between 24 months and 4 years old with incomplete PCV13 series should get one dose of it. Those who are in the same age group but has some medical conditions should get a couple of doses of PCV13 in case they have not completed the full course of vaccine. This is usually the case for children with medical conditions, such as cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaks, cochlear implants, sickle cell disease, chronic heart or lung disease, and HIV/AIDS. Children who are on medications that weaken the immune system should get a dose under a physician's supervision.

Children from 6 to 8 Years Old

Children between 6 and 8 years old should get a single dose of PCV13, especially if they have certain medical conditions, such as HIV-infection, sickle cell disease, and other conditions leading to compromised immunity. These children should receive PCV13 even if they have received doses of PCV7 or PPSV23 in the past. Talk to your healthcare provider for more details.

When to Avoid Pneumococcal Vaccination

The pneumococcal vaccine is quite effective but there are situations when you should avoid it. For instance:

  • Fever at the Appointment: Children should not get the pneumonia shot when they have a fever. If your children feel unwell, consult the doctor before taking the vaccine. 
  • Vaccine Allergy: It is important to avoid the vaccine if you are allergic to any ingredients in the vaccine because it can lead to an anaphylactic reaction that can cause serious complications. You can have it if you have had it in the past and only developed a mild reaction, such as a rash.
  • Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: You can get the pneumococcal vaccine when you are pregnant or breastfeeding your baby. But it is best to be on the safe side and get it after you have delivered the baby.

Side Effects of Pneumococcal Vaccine

Like other vaccines, there are certain side effects associated with PCV13 and PPSV23 vaccines. You do not usually experience life-threatening complications though. Some people may have problems such as redness, swelling, and soreness at the site of the shot. This should resolve in a few days.

About 1% of people experience other side effects after getting the shot, and the list includes muscle aches, fever, and severe swelling. A severe allergic reaction may occur if you are allergic to anything in the vaccines. The most common signs of a severe allergic reaction are dizziness, breathing difficulty, behavior changes, hives, high fever, hoarse voice, rapid heartbeat, pale skin, and weakness. Seek immediate medical assistance if you experience these symptoms. 

 
 
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