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Should You Talk to Your Doctor About the Pneumonia Vaccine?

October 20, 2020
Most people are familiar with the flu vaccine, but did you know there’s also a vaccine that protects against pneumonia? Jerrica Mueller, MD, an internal medicine resident at GBMC, talked with Mary Beth Marsden about why people with certain health problems are at greater risk from pneumonia and who should get the pneumonia vaccine.

“While most cases of pneumonia are treated on an outpatient basis, some people get sicker and require treatment in the hospital,” Dr. Mueller explained. “Your age and whether you have other chronic health problems affect your risk of experiencing complications from pneumonia. Children under the age of 5 and adults over 65, for example, have less robust immune systems, so they’re at an increased risk. And people with conditions that weaken the immune system or the lungs, such as diabetes, COPD, and asthma, are also at a greater risk as well as people who smoke.”

The pneumonia vaccine can help lower that risk. It’s recommended for everyone 65 or older as well as younger people with one of the chronic conditions, Dr. Mueller mentioned. Unlike the flu shot, you only need to get the pneumonia vaccine once if you get it when you’re 65 or older.

Side effects from the vaccine are usually mild and may include tenderness and swelling at the injection site, low grade fever, and fatigue that only last a day or two.

“Talk to your primary care physician to find out if you should get a pneumonia vaccine,” said Dr. Mueller. “The good news is that the cost is 100% covered by Medicare and most commercial insurance plans.”
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