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Why You Should Get Both the Flu and Pneumonia Shots


Pneumonia and the flu together are among the top ten leading causes of death, particularly among people over the age of 65. It is estimated that nearly 40,000 Americans die each year from flu-related illness and around the same number of people die from pneumonia.

How effective is the flu vaccine?

Influenza vaccine can prevent illness in approximately 80 percent of healthy people less than 65 years of age. Among the elderly people living outside of nursing homes or similar chronic-care facilities, influenza vaccine is about 50 percent effective in preventing hospitalization for the flu and pneumonia. Among the elderly residing in nursing homes, the vaccine can be 60 percent effective in preventing hospitalization for pneumonia and 80 percent effective in preventing death caused by pneumonia.

Who should receive the flu vaccine?

All people 6 months old and older are recommended to receive an annual influenza vaccination.

When should I receive the flu vaccine?

Since the flu viruses change constantly, an annual vaccination is recommended. You may receive flu vaccine anytime during the flu season, which usually lasts from November to March. While the best time to get flu vaccine is in October or November, getting vaccinated in December or later can still protect you against the flu.

What about pneumonia vaccines?

There are two forms of pneumonia vaccine:

1. the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV23), which provides immunity against 23
strains of pneumococcus in adults, but does not work well for young children under the
age of 2.
2. the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13), which works to prevent 13 common
strains of pneumococcus that cause disease in young children.

Who should receive pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV23)?

All adults who are 65 years of age and older. The vaccine is also recommended for people older than 2 years who have a long-term health problem such as heart disease, sickle cell disease, alcoholism, lung disease including emphysema , diabetes, cirrhosis, or leaks of cerebrospinal fluid. Anyone over 2 years old who has a disease or condition that lowers the body’s resistance to infection should also get the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine. In addition, PPV23 vaccine is recommended for cochlear implant patients.

When should I receive pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV23)?

This vaccine can be given at any time during the year and even at the same time as the flu vaccine. Usually one dose of pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine is all that is needed for healthy people. However, if you received the first dose prior to age 65, it is recommended that you get a single revaccination at age 65 (or older) if it has been at least 5 years since your previous dose. People who have compromised immune systems may need two doses before they are 65 years of age. Ask your doctor for more details.

  • Other Facts about the Flu and Pneumonia Vaccines
  • Since the vaccine is made from dead influenza viruses, you cannot get influenza from the flu
  • You cannot get the flu or pneumonia from the vaccines.
  • Side effects are typically minor and last a short time. They may include soreness, redness or swelling where the shot is given, fever, and/or muscle aches.
  • The vaccines will not protect you from other respiratory infections, such as colds and bronchitis, which are caused by other viruses or bacteria.
  • The flu vaccine can be administered at the same time as other vaccines, including pneumonia vaccines.