Do I need to get a pneumonia vaccine?

Q: Do I need a pneumonia vaccine?

A:  We’ve been spending a lot of time talking about vaccines this summer, which we know is kind of lame and boring.  But it’s our job to keep you healthy – in other words, to be lame and boring – so as much as I’d rather be talking about the Miami game tomorrow, I’m forced to subject you to yet another discourse on vaccines.  This time… the pneumonia shot!

But this one really is worth talking about, because the Centers for Disease Control just changed their recommendations for this vaccine and they could actually impact you.

The pneumonia vaccine used to only be recommended for people over 65, or for those who had certain chronic medical conditions.  But now, anyone 19 years of age or older who smokes or has asthma is being advised to get it.  People tend not to think of asthma as a chronic lung disease for some reason, but it is and if someone with asthma gets pneumonia, they’re at a much higher risk for having a bad outcome from it.  And we all know that smoking damages your lungs and weakens their ability to withstand infections.

If either of these conditions applies to you, you only need to get one shot and most of you will be good until you are 65 years old.  Depending on the rest of your health status, some people might need a booster shot 5 years after the first one.   If you have any questions about whether or not you need to get a pneumonia vaccine, or if you’d like to schedule an appointment to get one, contact our preventive medicine department and they’ll be glad to help you out.

John A. Vaughn, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University