Over the past 50 years, immunization has saved more than a billion lives and prevented countless illnesses and disabilities in the United States. An overwhelming majority of health professionals, medical researchers and professional medical organizations (such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Practice Physicians) recommend vaccinations. Getting vaccinated, for the flu and pneumonia specifically, is the best way to protect yourself, as well as those around you from infectious disease.
Why Should People Get Vaccinated Against the Flu?
Influenza is a serious disease that can result in hospitalization and sometimes even death. Every flu season is different, and influenza infection can affect individuals differently. Even health individuals can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others. Over a period of 31 seasons (1976-2007), estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people. During recent flu seasons, between 80 percent and 90 percent of flu related deaths have occurred in individuals 65 years and older. In the United States, “flu season” can begin as early as October and last as late as May. During this time, flu viruses are circulating at higher levels in the U.S. population. The best way to reduce the chances that you will get seasonal flu and spread it to others is by receiving an annual seasonal flu vaccine. When more individuals get vaccinated against the flu, less flu can spread through that community.
Not only can the flu vaccination keep you from getting sick from the flu, it can also reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization, including among children and older adults. A study published in the summer of 2016 showed that people 50 years and older who received the flu vaccine reduced their risk of getting hospitalized from the flu by 57 percent.
The flu vaccination is also an important preventative tool for individuals with chronic health conditions. This vaccination was associated with lower rates of some cardiac events among individuals with heart disease, particularly among those who had a cardiac event in the past year. It has also been shown to be associated with reduced hospitalizations among individuals with diabetes (79 percent) and chronic lung disease (52 percent).
How Do Flu Vaccines Work?
The flu vaccine causes antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine.
Seasonal flu vaccines protect against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. Traditional flu vaccines—also known as “trivalent vaccines—are made to protect against three flu viruses; an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus and an influenza B virus. There are also flu vaccines made to protect against four flu viruses which are called “quadrivalent” vaccines. These vaccines protect against the same viruses as the trivalent vaccine and an additional B virus.
Why Should People Get Vaccinated Against Pneumonia?
Many adults are at risk of pneumococcal disease. There are a couple of vaccines that provide protection against this serious and sometimes deadly disease. In the United States, pneumococcal disease kills thousands of adults each year, including 18,000 adults 65 years or older. Thousands more end up in the hospital because of this disease. It can cause severe infections of the lungs (pneumonia), bloodstream (bacteremia) and lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis). The best way to prevent pneumococcal disease is by getting vaccinated.
How Do Pneumococcal Vaccines Work?
The two vaccines that can prevent pneumococcal disease include:
- PCV13 (pneumococcal conjugate vaccine)
- PPSV23 (pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine)
PCV13 protects against 13 strains of pneumococcus bacteria and PPSV23 protects against 23 strains of pneumococcus bacteria. Both vaccines provide protection against illnesses such as meningitis and bacteremia. PCV13 also provides protection against pneumonia. While these vaccines are safe, side effects may occur. Most side effects are mild, such as arm swelling or soreness, and do not affect daily activities.
Which Adults Should and Shouldn’t Get PCV13?
PCV13 is recommended for all adults 65 years or older, as well as adults 19 years or older with certain health conditions.
Anyone who has ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to a dose of the vaccine, to an earlier pneumococcal vaccine called PCV7 (or Prevnar), or to any vaccine containing diphtheria toxoid (for example, DTaP), should not get PCV13. Anyone with a severe allergy to any component of PCV13 should get the vaccine.
Which Adults Should and Shouldn’t Get PPSV23?
PPSV23 is recommended for all adults 65 years or older, as well as adults 19 through 64 years old with certain health conditions or who smoke cigarettes.
Anyone who has ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to a dose of PPSV23 or with a severe allergy to any component of the vaccine should not get the vaccine.
When it comes to your health, you want to know that you are receiving patient-centered care during your annual wellness exam. Brashear Family Medical Center physicians are specialized in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of symptoms and diseases in children and adults of all ages. We provide comprehensive health care that is based on the patient’s family history and are committed to providing continuous quality care to every member of the family through every stage in life. Contact us with the link below to schedule your flu and pneumococcal vaccinations today!