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Studies reveal efficacy of pneumonia vaccine in older adults
April 20, 2021
The pneumonia vaccine (or pneumococcal vaccine) was first licensed in 1977. Pneumonia is a common lung infection that affects millions of people around the world each year.
The most common bacteria causing pneumonia is pneumococcus (Streptococcus pneumoniae). It is a microorganism that is spread through contact between people. Despite the fact that most of the infections it produces are mild, it can also cause very serious conditions, especially in the elderly and children.
So much so that, In addition to pneumonia, it can lead to sepsis and meningitis. Therefore, in this article we explain the importance of the pneumonia vaccine and its efficacy and safety.
What is the pneumonia vaccine?
Pneumonia is a lung infection. What happens is that the alveoli (the small sacs in which gas exchange occurs in the lung) fill with fluid or pus. That is why you cannot breathe properly.
It usually occurs with a productive cough, fever and general malaise, among other symptoms. The problem is that this picture can be severely complicated, being lethal at times.
According to a publication from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 50,000 people die each year from pneumonia in the United States alone. In addition, about a million receive medical attention for this pathology.
Certain groups of people are at higher risk for pneumonia or a more serious picture of it. In the first place we find adults over 65 and children under 5.
Those with chronic diseases, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, make up another risk group. The same is true of immunosuppressed people. Smokers are also at higher risk, as their lungs are vulnerable.
Types of vaccines
As we have noted, the first pneumonia vaccine was licensed in 1977. Since then the method of vaccination has been developed and refined. Today two different versions are used, both safe and effective.
The first is the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23). It protects against 23 types of bacteria that cause pneumococcal diseases (it is estimated that there are about 90 varieties in all). It is recommended in people over 65 and for smokers.
The second vaccine is the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13). Provides protection against 13 types of bacteria. It is administered systematically according to the vaccination schedule to children of 2, 4 and 6 months. Also between 12 and 15 months. It is also used in people who have cochlear implants and cerebrospinal fluid leaks (if they are over 65 years old).
Efficacy of the pneumonia vaccine
The pneumonia vaccine, regardless of type, is considered effective and safe. There are multiple investigations in this regard. A study published in International Journal of Epidemiology explains that the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV23) is most effective in younger adults.
In fact, it appears that this efficacy decreases slightly over time. However, both types have managed to significantly reduce the number of deceased people. They have also reduced complications.
According to an article by the American Academy of Family Physicians, the use of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) in children it has reduced the incidence also among adults.
In fact, in 2013, the incidence of invasive pneumococcal disease had decreased by around 50% in older adults. That is why it is considered that vaccines have made a great advance in the prevention of this disease.
Side effects and safety
Serious side effects are very rare. That is why the benefit / risk balance is clear.
The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) can cause discomfort at the injection site. For example, redness, swelling, and pain. It happens in both children and adults. It is usually applied to the arm and that is where the discomfort appears.
In some cases there is fever, fatigue and general malaise. This includes poor appetite and headaches. In children, the fever is usually milder, but they are at greater risk of having seizures from it.
On the other hand, the polysaccharide-type vaccine (PPSV23) can also produce these effects. It is associated with a higher frequency of generalized muscle pain. However, in any case, the symptom is self-limited.
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When is it indicated to apply the vaccine?
There are certain groups of people who are more vulnerable to pneumococcus. That is why it is used both in people over 65 and in children under 5.
It is also prescribed in the immunosuppressed or in those with chronic diseases (diabetics, asthmatics, heart). Smokers are another risk group that should be vaccinated.
As an article by Vaccines, each immunization has its own indications. Conjugated pneumococcal (PCV13) is usually indicated in the following cases:
Children under 2 years old. 4 different doses are given at 2, 4, and 6 months of age.
Children older than 2 years who have certain pathologies.
In the case of adults over 65, the choice is complex. Generally, it is preferred to use the polysaccharide. What must be borne in mind is that neither of the two should be administered if there has already been an allergic reaction to either of them. Nor should it be used in pregnant women.
Other indications of the vaccine
Currently the vaccine is recommended when traveling to certain places. Specifically, on trips to Asia, Africa and South America. They are places where there is a high prevalence of the bacteria. A typical example is Saudi Arabia.
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The pneumonia vaccine is safe and effective
Both types of pneumonia vaccine are safe and effective. The side effects they can produce are mild and self-limited. For example, pain at the injection site or a slight general malaise.
That is why it is recommended that risk groups get vaccinated. The benefit significantly outweighs the risk. In addition, the percentage of infected, deaths and complications has decreased.
However, in addition to vaccination, it is important to take into account certain measures to try to prevent infection. Proper hand hygiene must be performed frequently. It is also essential to clean surfaces that are frequently touched a lot.
When sneezing or coughing, cover your nose and mouth with the inside of your elbow. or with a tissue. Similarly, it is essential to stop smoking or limit contact with smokers as much as possible. Finally, before any symptom or suspicion of disease, it is essential to always go to the doctor.
Treatment of pneumonia
Treatment of pneumonia depends on the causative agent that causes it. It is necessary to differentiate between bacterial, viral and fungal pneumonias. Read more "