In modern medicine, vaccines are one of the most effective and important methods to protect against serious infection and disease. Along with regular vaccines for influenza, COVID-19, and the DTaP shot, it’s also important to receive vaccines such as the pneumococcal vaccine. At Chetco Medical & Aesthetics in Brookings, OR, we understand that the key to preventative health is being proactive about regular health measures such as inoculation and other lifestyle treatments. Learn more about this important vaccine and how it can benefit your overall health before you schedule your next wellness appointment.
What Diseases Does Pneumococcal Vaccine Prevent?
According to the CDC, the pneumococcal vaccine protects against dozens of different pneumococcal bacteria that are the most common cause of serious infections, including pneumonia, ear infections, blood infections, and bacterial meningitis. A disease caused by pneumococcal bacteria is likely related to Streptococcus pneumonia, which is known to affect various body systems from the sinus to the bloodstream.
In adults, the most common infection associated with this bacteria is pneumonia, an infection of the lungs that can greatly affect the health of the lungs. Pneumonia typically has flu-like symptoms with fever, chills, sore throat, coughing with mucus, or even pain with deep breaths. Untreated, pneumonia is considered a leading cause of death among the elderly.
Do You Have Vaccine Options?
This vaccine is standard for both children and adults, and is likely part of your recommended preventative care, just like an annual flu shot or other single-dose shots like tetanus. There are two variants of this vaccine that can help protect against 30 of the most common types of pneumonia strains.
Prevnar 13 or PCV13
This pneumococcal vaccine is most commonly given to children during early development to protect against pneumococcal bacteria. This vaccine specifically protects people from 13 strains of bacteria that cause serious illness. Physicians typically give this vaccine to children starting at 12 to 15 months old, as well as additional dosages at ages two, four, and six. Adults will generally only need this particular vaccine once during adulthood, particularly adults who are immunocompromised or older than 65.
Pneumovax23 or PPSV23
This vaccine protects against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria and is generally considered a single-dose shot for adults who may have chronic medical conditions or who are over the age of 65. This vaccine may be given as a two-shot dose for people who are at higher risk of serious medical conditions affecting the lungs.
Can You Have Both Vaccines?
Like other types of vaccines, the immunity provided by these vaccines is limited by the response of your immune system and the particular strains of bacteria you are exposed to. This is why children may receive multiple doses from a young age and then another dose as adults. For adults older than 65, the response of the immune system to certain bacteria may be weaker, which is why it’s very common for older adults to have both the PCV13 and PPSV23 vaccines.
If your physician does recommend that you have both vaccines, then you will need to wait at least 12 months between these vaccines to get the best protection possible. It’s common to start with the PCV13 vaccine, wait a year, and then have the PPSV23 vaccine as either a single-dose or two-dose regimen. If you do need two doses of the PPSV23 vaccine, then you should wait at least four months between your shots.
How Effective Are These Vaccines?
Vaccines for pneumococcal bacteria are very effective for protecting against serious illness for the majority of people. For example, PCV13 will protect eight in 10 infants from pneumococcal disease, three in four adults over the age of 65 from pneumococcal disease, and nine in 2 adults 65 and over from pneumonia. The PPSV23 vaccine will protect the vast majority of healthy adults from pneumococcal disease. These vaccines may also protect from antibiotic-resistant strains of pneumococcal diseases.
Who Needs These Vaccines the Most?
In general, pneumococcal diseases are most common in young children and adults who are 65 or older, as well as people who have compromised immune systems. For children, they are likely more vulnerable to certain diseases because their immune system is still developing, while older adults and those with weakened immune systems may have a slower or less effective immune response.
Adults will generally only need one or two doses of pneumococcal vaccines because these vaccines are meant to last a lifetime for adults who are older than 65. However, if you receive either of these vaccines during younger adulthood, you may want to speak with your physician about having an additional dose when you are older.
How Will You Feel After Your Vaccine?
The vast majority of people will likely not have any side effects associated with the vaccine. However, for some people, there may be mild effects after the vaccination as your immune system responds to inoculation. These symptoms will generally go away within hours or days and may include tenderness at the injection site, mild fever or chills, headache, muscle aches, and feeling tired.
If you are feeling effects after your vaccination, then you should consider it a positive sign that your immune system is responding to the vaccine. Vaccines are low-risk ways to introduce your body to certain bacteria and viruses that may cause serious illness; when your immune system is trained to recognize these illnesses, your immune response will be more effective and you will be more likely to avoid serious or life-threatening illnesses.
Can You Have Multiple Vaccines At the Same Time?
Because people lead busy lives, it may not be convenient to schedule different appointments for different vaccines. Fortunately, it’s very common to have multiple vaccines at the same time. For example, the flu and pneumonia vaccine can be given at the same time. Older adults can also have the shingles vaccine at the same time as this one, as well as other common vaccinations.
The key to having multiple vaccinations at the same time is the placement of the shots. In general, the injection site for each shot should be different, such as having one shot in each upper arm. You may also have the option of placing both shots in the same arm as long as the injection site itself is spaced by one or two inches.
Why Do We Inject Vaccines In the Arms?
While the most common area to place a vaccine is in the upper arm, specifically the deltoid muscle, the fact of the matter is that most vaccines for viral and bacterial infection protection must be placed in muscles. This is why some vaccines can be placed in the thigh or even the muscles in the stomach.
The reason why vaccines are given to the muscles is that the muscles are home to important immune cells; by placing the vaccine directly among immune cells, the vaccine will be absorbed and responded to more quickly. In short, vaccines in the arm are the most efficient method for delivering inoculation doses.
Where Can You Have These Vaccines?
Common vaccines can be found just about anywhere, such as at your family physician, free health clinics, and your local pharmacy. Physicians, nurses, and pharmacists, as well as specially trained community health workers, are all authorized to give vaccines. When you have a vaccine, you will likely receive paperwork about the vaccine so you will be able to keep your immunization or vaccination record up to date.
That said, especially for young children, it’s important to keep track of vaccine dates and try to schedule all vaccination dates through your family physician. This may be especially important if certain vaccines are required before the school year starts.
Are These Vaccines Covered By Insurance?
Yes, pneumococcal vaccines are covered by multiple insurance programs. Your private healthcare insurance, either through your employer or through the federal marketplace, will usually cover vaccines with little to no copay. Children are likely eligible for the Vaccines for Children program if they meet certain eligibility requirements. Finally, both Medicare and Medicaid will cover these vaccinations free of cost.
Prioritize Your Wellness
If you’re ready to take proactive steps for the betterment of your health, then it may be time to schedule your annual vaccinations, including the pneumococcal vaccine. This vaccine is very important to help prevent serious illnesses in the blood, brain, and lungs. Contact us at Chetco Medical & Aesthetics in Brookings, OR to schedule a wellness visit and your next vaccinations today.