Virginia Department of Health Recommends Pneumonia Vaccine for Seniors

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Virginia Department of Health is encouraging all adults aged 65 and over to get vaccinated against pneumococcal disease. Each year pneumococcal disease causes thousands of hospitalizations and deaths. This serious disease can lead to infections of the lungs, the blood,  and the covering of the brain.


Pneumonia and influenza account for more than 2,000 deaths each year in Virginia, with nine out of 10 deaths occurring in people age 65 and older, said State Health Commissioner Robert B. Stroube, MD, MPH. The pneumonia shot is quick, easy, and relatively painless. It can help prevent you from getting seriously ill, or even dying.


Pneumococcal pneumonia causes about 175,000 hospitalizations each year in the United States. About 1 out of every 20 people who get pneumococcal pneumonia dies from it. More than 50,000 cases of pneumococcal disease result in a blood infection. The overall death rate due to the blood infection form of the disease is about 20 percent, but may be as high as 60 percent in elderly patients.


The bacteria that cause pneumococcal infections are spread from person to person, mainly through the air. The disease can be spread by anyone who is infected, even if they dont have symptoms. Pneumococcal infections may develop as secondary infections after an initial viral illness, such as flu.


An effective vaccine, the pneumococcal vaccine, protects against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria. Protection develops within two to three weeks after receiving the vaccination. Usually only one dose of vaccine is needed; however, a second dose may be recommended for those vaccinated before the age of 65.


The following people should receive the pneumococcal vaccine:


All adults 65 years of age and older

Anyone two years of age or older who has a long-term health problem, such as heart disease, lung disease, sickle cell disease, diabetes, and alcoholism

Anyone two years of age or older who has a disease or condition that lowers the bodys resistance to infection, such as HIV or leukemia, or anyone who is taking an immunosuppressive drug, such as certain cancer treatments


The pneumococcal vaccine can be received any time during the year, but unvaccinated seniors are encouraged to get vaccinated before the winter months when respiratory diseases are more common. The vaccine is available from most physicians, local health departments and many local pharmacies.

Source: Virginia Department of Health