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Should You Get a Pneumonia Vaccine? Posted: February 25th, 2010

By Maryalene LaPonsie

Maryalene LaPonsie

If you are like many adult Americans, you regard vaccines as an unpleasant childhood requirement. However, a number of health insurance and health care organizations are now encouraging adults to consider a new vaccine for pneumonia.

A respiratory illness that can cause lung inflammation, pneumonia's symptoms include cough, chills, shortness of breath, and fever. Although a serious illness itself, the bacteria that causes pneumococcal disease can pose an even greater health risk as the cause of blood infections and meningitis.

Health Agencies Recommend Pneumonia Vaccines for Adults

A pneumonia vaccine has existed since 1983, but protecting against pneumococcal disease did not become common until the introduction of Prevnar. First approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) in 2000, this pneumococcal vaccine is routinely given to infants and children.

The initial vaccine targeted the seven strains of bacteria that are responsible for 80% of all cases of pneumococcal disease. In February 2010, a new formulation of the vaccine was approved that provides protection against an additional six strains of the bacteria.

Although the vaccine has been primarily marketed as a means to protect young children from ear infections, an increasing number of health insurance and health care organizations are urging adults to receive the vaccination as well.

Some of the organizations encouraging adults to become vaccinated include:

  • American Medical Association
  • National Association of City and County Health Officials
  • American Nurses Association
  • Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
  • National Hispanic Medical Association
  • American Pharmacists Association
  • American Society for Microbiology

These organizations note that 15% to 20% of adults who contract blood infections caused by pneumococcal bacteria die, while the mortality rate for meningitis can exceed 40%. Elderly individuals are at an increased risk for death or permanent disability from the disease.

Health Insurance and the Pneumonia Vaccine

If you want to protect yourself from pneumococcal disease, the pneumonia vaccine could be a safe and effective treatment option.

Most people require only one dose of the vaccine; however, your doctor might recommend a second dose if you:

  • Are 65 years of age or older
  • Have a weakened immune system
  • Have kidney disease
  • Were the recipient of an organ or bone marrow transplant

Regardless of your age and health status, most health insurance plans provide coverage for vaccinations such as the pneumonia vaccine. Contact your health insurance provider for details, and to see if your plan covers the pneumonia vaccine.

Maryalene LaPonsie