Pneumonia Vaccine: Meaning, Types and Side Effects

Pneumonia Vaccine: Meaning, Types and Side Effects

The pneumonia vaccine is given to a person in order to protect them from the chances of the life threatening and a contagious disease called Streptococcus pneumonia. Getting this vaccine reduces the chances of getting infected by this bacterium and all the diseases that follow with it. This section caters to deal with what is pneumonia vaccine, who should get it and when, who all should avoid getting the shot, its benefits, side effects and everything else about it.

What is Pneumonia Vaccine?

To describe it in simple terms, a pneumonia vaccine is a vaccine that is given to children and adults to help protect them against all the diseases that are caused by the bacteria, Streptococcus pneumonia. Some of the diseases that this vaccine can prevent are sepsis, pneumonia and meningitis amongst others.

There are two kinds of pneumonia vaccines available. They are:

  • Polysaccharide pneumococcal vaccine
  • Conjugate pneumococcal vaccine

What is Polysaccharide Pneumococcal vaccine?

A PPV23 or Polysaccharide pneumococcal vaccine or Pneumovax 23 is a vaccine shot which helps to prevent a person from 23 types of diseases that are caused by pneumonia bacteria. This shot is recommended to:

  • Adults who are above 65 years of age.
  • People who have asthma or is a smoker.
  • People who have a low immune system.
  • Any person that is addicted to drugs, steroids or radiation therapy.
  • Any person from the age of 2 to 65 years who are affected certain diseases.

What is Conjugate Pneumococcal vaccine?

A PCV13 or a conjugate pneumococcal vaccine is a vaccine shot consisting of both conjugate vaccine and pneumococcal vaccine that is given to children and also some adults. It is mainly used for infants who are less than 2 years of age and other infants who are more than 2 years old or older who are affected by certain medical conditions. There are a total of three kinds of conjugate pneumococcal vaccine that is available. They are,

  • Prevnar 13.
  • Prevnar

What is a Pneumococcus disease?

The Pneumococcus disease is a kind of an infection or a disease that is caused by a type of bacteria which is known as Pneumococcus or Streptococcus pneumonia.  These bacteria are known to be the root of many life threatening illnesses. The pneumococcus bacteria have the capacity to damage blood stream, lungs and the fluids and tissues that surround the spinal cord and the brain.

Some of these diseases are severe cases of pneumonia, meningitis, middle ear infections, sinus infections and blood stream infections (or Bacteremia) amongst others.

This disease mainly affects the toddlers who are below than 2 years of age and adults who are above 35 years of age. People who are between 2 years of age and 65 years of age can also be affected if they have a weak immune system. The infection that occurs as a result of pneumococcus bacteria is contagious and can spread from one person to another. The carriers of these bacteria are mainly respiratory secretion such as mucus or saliva.

Some of the symptoms of Pneumococcus disease are:

  • Fever and chills
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Pain in the chest
  • Cough
  • Sensitivity of the eyes to light
  • Confusion
  • Stiff neck
  • Head ache
  • Lack of alertness
  • Ear pain
  • Sleepiness

What are the benefits of getting Pneumonia Vaccines?

There are two kinds of Pneumonia vaccines. Getting any of these shots helps to prevent a person from getting the pneumococcus disease. It helps to protect a person from a severe illness that results from the streptococcus bacteria such as bacteremia and meningitis amongst others. Along with this, the PCV13 vaccine shot helps to protect a person from 13 strains of the pneumococcal bacteria. The other shot PPSV23 helps to protect a person from 23 strains of the pneumococcal bacteria.

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Who should get themselves a Pneumococcal vaccine?

There are certain categories that must get themselves a pneumonia vaccine in order to protect themselves from a pneumonia vaccine. These groups are as follows:

  • People who are above the age of 65 years: As the body of a person starts to age, it starts to lose its effectiveness with which its immune system used to perform. Hence, as a result, the body immune system fails to fight and protect the body against various infections and diseases and therefore they are more likely to get a pneumonia infection. Therefore the people aged above 65 years are recommended to get themselves vaccinated.
  • The people who are heavy drinkers: The immune system of the people who drink regularly and heavily tends to be weaker in comparison with those who don’t. The white blood cells that are responsible for battling and preventing eh body against various infections and diseases, present in the body of an individual, fails to perform its function effectively. Hence, their body becomes more prone to pneumococcal diseases. Therefore, it is recommended for these people to get themselves vaccinated.
  • People who have weakened immune system: There are various instances where the immune system of the body reduces its efficiency. This could be when the person is affected with certain serious diseases like asthma, emphysema, heart diseases, AIDS or HIV, diabetes and COPD amongst others. Other cases where the immune system can lose its efficiency are when the person is going through radiation or chemotherapy or have had an organ transplant amongst others. Therefore, in these cases, the person has higher chances of catching a pneumonia bacterium and is to get them vaccinated.
  • If recommended the person is a smoker: People who have been chain smokers have less resistance against germs and infections when compared with those who don’t. This is since heavy smoking tends to damage the tiny hairs that are present on the inside of the lungs. These hairs are responsible for preventing against various infections since they help to filter out the germs. As these are damaged by smoking heavily, the being gets affected and more prone to catching pneumococcal infections. Therefore, these people are suggested to get themselves a pneumonia vaccine.
  • People who have had a recent surgery or serious illness: People who are fighting serious illness or have had a recent serious surgery are more prone to getting infected with pneumonia. This is because their immune system weakens in comparison to others. Hence, these people must get themselves vaccinated.

When should a person not get themselves a Pneumococcal vaccine?

Every person does not need to get them vaccinated with pneumonia vaccines. There are some instances where a person can skip them. Some of these instances are:

  • If the person is between the age of 18 years and 65 years and is healthy.
  • In a case where the person is suffering from any serious diseases or illness, they must wait until they recover.
  • If the person is pregnant, it is recommended to skip the vaccine.
  • In cases where the person in question is allergic to any components of the vaccine.

When should a person get themself a pneumonia vaccine shot?

A person should get themselves a vaccine shot for pneumonia as and when it is suggested by the doctor. This could be at any time of the year. This is because the pneumococcal disease is not seasonal unlike any flu and can affect the person at any time of the year. Hence, it could be required at any time of the year.

A person can also get a pneumonia vaccine shot along with the vaccine for influenza or flu. However, unlike the flu vaccine requires to be shot every year at the season of the flu, the pneumonia vaccines are not required to be shot every year.

How often should a person get them a vaccine shot for pneumococcal disease?

It is most common for toddlers below 2 years of age and adults above 65 years of age to get affected by the pneumococcal disease. This leaves them more prone to pneumococcal infections that could be life threatening to them. Therefore, it is just not important to get them a vaccine shot but also important to ensure the vaccine shot is taken at regular intervals. Hence, the intervals with which a person should get themselves a pneumococcal vaccine shot are:

  • Toddlers less than 2 years of age: The toddlers who are less than 2 years of age require a total of four shots. The first one when they are 2 months in age, the second one when they are 4 months of age, third when they are 6 months of age. They should give shot, a booster between the ages of 13 months to 15 months.
  • Adults above the age of 65 years old: Adults who are above 65 years of age would require two shots. These shots would last a lifetime on them.
  • People between the age of 2 years and 65 years: There could be some exceptional instances where the people above the age of 2 years and below the age of 65 years would require to get themselves a vaccine shot. In those cases, these people need to get one to three shots according to what they require.
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What are the dangers of pneumonia vaccine?

Before getting a pneumococcal vaccine shot, it stands important to have a good knowledge of the various pneumonia vaccine side effects that can occur or what the dangers of pneumonia vaccine are.

Hence, some of the pneumonia vaccine side effects that a person should keep a note of are:

  • Swelling and/ or redness when the vaccine has been shot.
  • Stiffness around the area or the arm where the vaccine has been given or shot.
  • Reactions like pain, warmth, hard lump, tenderness and soreness in the area around the vaccine shot.
  • Irritation and fussiness.
  • Improper sleep.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Mild fever and chills.
  • Skin rash.
  • Weakness and fatigue.
  • Muscle aches and joint aches and pain.
  • Headache and nausea.
  • Feeling of tiredness, weakness and drowsiness.
  • Loss of strength in the muscles.
  • Absurd weight loss or weight gain.
  • Problems in breathing.
  • Problems in the voice.
  • Sneezing and runny nose.
  • Nasal congestion.
  • Sore throat.
  • Ear congestion.
  • Increased heart beat
  • An uncomfortable feeling of illness.
  • Itching
  • Red patches or spots on the skin.
  • Tightness on the chest.
  • Joint inflammations.
  • Difficulty in swallowing.
  • Swollen glands.

How long do the side effects of a Pneumococcal vaccine last?

The common side effects or the mild reactions that follow after getting a pneumococcal shot like redness and pain around the area of the shot, fever, headache and irritation amongst others are likely to go away after one to three days.

There could some serious reactions to the pneumococcal shot as well. These are basically allergic reactions that a person gets from the pneumococcal vaccine. However, an allergic reaction that follows from the pneumonia vaccines is very rare. Some of the symptoms to identify a serious allergic reaction are:

  • Increased heart rate.
  • Light headedness.
  • Clammy skin.
  • Difficulty in breathing.

If in case a person can spot any of these symptoms after getting a pneumococcal shot, they should immediately consult the doctor.

Concluding Take Away

Pneumonia vaccines are the vaccines that are given to children below 2 years if age and adults above 65 years of age and people between the age group 2 years and 65 years if they have a weak immune system or is a regular smoker. Getting this vaccine shot helps to protect and prevent a person from getting the bacteria Streptococcus pneumonia.

The Pneumococcal disease that occurs from the bacteria Streptococcus pneumonia is a highly contagious life threatening disease. The prevention of this disease is getting vaccine shots. There are two kinds of vaccines that work towards preventing a person and the doctor suggests which one to put.

The person should watch for the side effects after getting themselves a vaccine shot. While mild reactions to the vaccine shot are normal and can last up to 3 days, the person must be carefully observing themselves for any severe reactions. If in case the person shot faces any severe allergic reactions, they must immediately be taken to the doctor to seek medical help.


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