Health Team

Vaccine protects against bacterial pneumonia

Posted December 24, 2009 5:40 p.m. EST
Updated December 26, 2009 4:52 p.m. EST

— Carol George works in a Durham dental office.

“It’s easy to come in contact with people who are sick,” George said.

Because of a condition with chronic low blood platelets, she had her spleen removed several years ago. The spleen helps the body fight infection.

Since she has less protection against infection, George opted to be vaccinated for pneumonia.

“I don't have the extra protection, so this is the extra protection that I'm actually getting to prevent any infection,” George said.

The pneumococcal vaccine is typically recommended for children between 2 months and 2 years old. The vaccine can be administered to children up to 5 years old if they haven't received it earlier.

Another version of the vaccine is available for adults 65 and older and for anyone with underlying medical conditions like heart or lung diseases, immunosuppressant diseases and metabolic diseases, including diabetes.

“People who are at risk for pneumococci need to get this, both to prevent original infection - but also to prevent a complication of the flu,” UNC Epidemiologist Dr. David Weber said.

Weber said too many people who should get the vaccine don't. If infected, they could end up hospitalized and tested for bacterial pneumonia.

Weber said several antibiotics are effective against the bacteria, but the vaccine can prevent it from ever becoming a life-threatening problem.

Even if you've received the vaccine before, there may be situations where you may need a second vaccination. Patients should ask their doctors about the vaccine.