After a scary bout of pneumonia sent Oprah Winfrey to the hospital in September, the 65-year-old media mogul is urging older Americans to get the vaccine.
“Don’t play with it and get your flu shots and get your pneumonia shots,” Winfreytold People magazine. “It’s nothing to play with."
In fact, pneumonia is a leading cause for people checking into the hospital across the United States. One out of every 20 adults who gets it will die.
But two pneumonia vaccines can protect those most vulnerable to the illness. Dr. Joel Edwards of Novant Health Davie Medical Associates in Mocksville, North Carolina, explains important details about who is at risk for pneumonia and who could benefit from the pneumococcal vaccine.
“Generally, there are two groups of people who should get the pneumonia vaccine – all adults over the age of 65 and people under the age of 65 who smoke or have certain chronic illnesses like asthma, diabetes or heart disease,” Edwards said.
Pneumonia is an infection of one or both of the lungs caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi or chemical irritants. It is a serious infection or inflammation in which the lungs’ air sacs fill with pus and other liquid. According to the American Lung Association , pneumonia is a common complication of respiratory infection – especially the flu.
“Pneumonia can very rapidly become a life-threatening illness,” Edwards said.
Adults 65 and older are at greatest risk, as aging starts to change the immune system. Lifestyle factors such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and undernourishment can also raise your risk.
“The current recommendation for adults who don’t smoke or have chronic illness is to receive the Prevnar 13 vaccine at age 65,” Edwards said. “Once they have received the Prevnar 13 vaccine, it is recommended they receive the second pneumonia vaccine, Pnuemovax23, 12 months later.” Unlike flu, there is no need for an annual vaccine.
For those under 65 who smoke or have a certain chronic illness, it is recommended they receive the Pneumovax23 vaccine at the time their chronic illness is diagnosed. Once they reach 65, they should follow the recommendation for adults over 65, Edwards said.
“The bottom line is these vaccines work,” Edwards said. “They prevent people from getting pneumonia, and they do save lives.”
Novant Health is participating in the North Carolina Healthcare Association’s Pneumonia Knockout Campaign – a two-year effort to reduce pneumonia mortality and readmission rates in North Carolina.
Are you at risk for developing pneumonia? Talk to your primary care provider about the vaccine. If you don’t have a primary care provider, find one at NovantHealth.org/doctor .