Aging parents and elders need to get a flu shot each year, and they also need to receive a pneumonia vaccination. And just about everyone else does, too.
Each fall I ask my parents about their flu shots (You can also read the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s influenza FAQ), and each year, by the time I get around to asking, they have already visited their doctor to receive their vaccinations. (Medicare covers an annual flu shot.) Several years ago they each also received the pneumonia vaccine, more formally known as pneumococcal vaccine. I wondered how often a person should receive the inoculation for pneumonia.
Recently as I was reading on another topic for this blog, I discovered — over at the WEB-MD site — that my parents should probably get a second pneumonia vaccine at the five-year mark. I’ve made a note to myself to ask them when we next visit so we can be sure they get the second shot at the appropriate time. Interestingly, while the flu shots are usually administered in the fall, the pneumonia shot can be given at any time of the year.
The pneumonia vaccine makes a significant difference in people’s lives, but especially in older adults. Last summer I set aside, but never got back to, a Reuters Health article, Pneumonia Vaccine Said to Reduce U.S. Hospitalizations. The piece, written by Gene Emery, describes how researchers found that the vaccine has prevented 168,000 hospitalizations each year since 2000, when the shots were first administered, including 73,000 annual hospitalizations for adults over age 85.
The figures in the Reuters Health article come from research published in the July 11, 2013 New England Journal of Medicine. U.S Hospitalizations for Pneumonia After a Decade of Pneumococcal Vaccination (abstract). The full article is not freely available so to read it you will need to visit a library, but if you like graphs, there are many in the article and they be worth your trip. Researchers used data from the federal Agency for Health Care Research and Quality (AHRQ), which has as one of its responsibilities collecting detailed hospitalization utilization information.