Pneumonia Prevention
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2022

Pneumonia Prevention

Each year, roughly 50,000 Americans die from pneumonia and related diseases. Most of them are 65 or older. Pneumonia vaccine could have prevented up to half of those deaths. If you are age 65 or older and meet certain criteria, I encourage you to ask about a pneumonia vaccine (pneumovax immunization) at your next checkup. The vaccine is the best way to prevent bacterial pneumonia.

About the Vaccine
This vaccine protects against Streptococcus pneumonia. This bacteria causes most cases of pneumonia and many other infections. The vaccine is a single injection. One dose is sufficient for most people. However, some people may need a second dose. You cannot get pneumonia from the vaccine. The vaccine is recommended for:

  • ALL people age 65 or older.
  • People with sickle cell disease or who have had their spleen removed
  • Residents of nursing homes or extended-care facilities
  • Residents of any institution housing people with chronic health problems
  • People with weakened immune systems (such as from cancer, HIV, diabetes, chronic liver and kidney problems, or organ transplants.)

Minimal Side Effects
Most people have minimal side effects from the vaccine. Sometimes the injection site gets slightly red or tender. As with any vaccine, there is a remote chance of a more serious reaction.  

Frequently Asked Questions
Can I get pneumonia vaccine with my flu vaccine?
Yes. You can get them at the same time. You only need a pneumonia vaccine once. But you need a flu shot every year.

Is the pneumonia vaccine covered by Medicare? Medicare Part B covers the vaccine. So do many other health plans.

What if I don’t know whether I have already received the pneumonia vaccine? If you have been vaccinated, your primary care provider will have a record of it. If we can’t determine that you have been vaccinated, we recommend that you be vaccinated. A second dose of vaccine is not harmful.

Donna Barron, RN, is an infection preventionist at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, part of Southwestern Vermont Health Care, in Bennington.


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