New Pneumonia Vaccine Gives At-Risk Over 65’s A Life-Changing Boost
We often hear about pneumonia, but it can sometimes be confusing as there are many different causes of pneumonia. Pneumonia can be caused by COVID-19and the flu, which are both examples of viral pneumonia caused by viruses that infect the lungs. Pneumonia can also be caused by fungus and bacteria. Did you know that bacterial pneumonia is the most common cause of pneumonia in adults, and if you’re over 65 years of age you’re at higher risk? Luckily thereis a new vaccine for that called Prevnar20.
What is pneumococcal pneumonia?
Pneumococcal pneumonia is caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae. These bacteriaare the most common cause of community-acquired pneumonia worldwide. Streptococcus pneumoniaecan also cause bacteraemic pneumonia (infection in the lungs with bacteria in the bloodstream), sepsis (bacteria in the bloodstream), and meningitis (inflammation around the brain). Together these infections are referred to as invasive pneumococcal disease.
The bacteria are spread from person to person through respiratory droplets by:
It is possible to be carrying Streptococcus pneumoniaebacteria without showing any symptoms. We can still spread the bacteria to others even if we don’t have symptoms.
Pneumonia causes an infection of the lungs. When a healthy person breathes the small sacs that make up the lungs called alveoli fill with air. When a person has pneumonia, the alveoli are filled with fluid and pus which makes breathing painful and difficult and limits the amount of oxygen a person can breathe in. Symptoms of pneumococcal pneumonia include:
- Chest pain
- Cough with puss or blood-tinged sputum
- Shortness of breath
- Altered mental status in the elderly
Streptococcus pneumoniaecan also cause pneumococcal meningitis which is less common than pneumonia. Symptoms may include:
- Stiff neck
Are you at risk?
There are certain factors and medical conditions that can increase a person’s risk of getting pneumococcal pneumonia. These include:
- Age ≥65 years
- Chronic lung disease (e.g. asthma and COPD)
- Chronic heart disease
- Some neurological conditions
- Chronic liver disease
- Impaired immune system
- Living in long term care facilities
- Travelling to developing countries
Preventpneumococcal pneumonia with Prevnar20!
If any of the above risk factors apply to you, consider getting immunized against pneumococcal pneumonia. There is a new vaccine available in Canada to prevent pneumococcal disease called Prevenar20 which provides protection against 20 strains of pneumococcal pneumonia.
Prevnar20 is recommended for all adults ≥65 years of age. It is also recommended for adults with certain underlying health conditions (e.g., diabetes, chronic heart, lung, kidney, or liver diseases, cancer, immunosuppression), and certain risk factors (e.g., smoking, living in a long term care facility). Consider getting Prevnar20 if you are a frequent traveller to areas in the world with lower vaccination rates where pneumococcal strains could be more commonly circulating.
Prevnar20 is not covered by MSP but is available for purchase at TravelSafe Clinic for those wanting protection against pneumococcal pneumonia.
Other vaccines to prevent pneumococcal pneumonia
There are 2 other vaccines available to prevent pneumococcal disease, Prevnar13 and Pneumo23. Prevnar13 is provided to babies as part of the routine immunization schedule in BC. Adults may receive either Prevnar13, Pneumo23, or Prevnar20 depending on age, risk factors, and vaccine availability.
Prevnar20 offers a better and longer lasting immune response than Prevnar13 and Pneumo23. Canada’s National Advisory Committee for Immunization only recommends Prevnar13 and Pneumo23 if Prevnar20 is not available.
Should you receive Prevnar20 if you have already received Prevnar13 or Pneumo23?
- If you received Pneumo23 alone, or both Pneumo23 and Prevnar13, then you can receive Prevnar20 at least 5 years after your last pneumococcal vaccine was given.
- If you received Prevnar13 alone, then you can receive Prevnar20 at least 1 year after Prevnar13 was given.
- If you receive Prevnar20 then you do not need any other vaccines for pneumococcal pneumonia in the future.
For more information about pneumococcal disease or to book your appointment for Prevnar20 call TravelSafe Clinic at 604-251-1975 or complete the online booking form.
Kristin Cain, RN, BSc, MSc(A) – TravelSafe Clinical Educator, Nurse Consultant, and avid traveller.