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Pneumonia Shot/Flu Shot

Have You Had Your Pneumococcal Vaccine? Yearly Flu Shot?

By Lisa Chavez, M.D., MPH
Infectious Diseases
Kaiser Permanente, Bellflower

Diseases caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) and influenza can be very serious and are major causes of illness and death in the United States. Certain groups are at increased risk, including the very young, those over age 65, patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, pulmonary disease, alcoholism, cancer, renal disease and HIV.

Pneumococcal and influenza immunizations have been shown to significantly decrease infections among those vaccinated. Pneumococcal vaccine reduces the incidence of pneumonia and protects against developing serious infections in the bloodstream. Influenza vaccine is very effective in decreasing the incidence of influenza and rate of hospitalizations for influenza-related complications. However, it does not prevent the common cold or other viral upper respiratory infections that are not influenza.

Do not get vaccinated if you are allergic to eggs or have a high fever. The vaccines are made form egg-grown viruses that have been inactivated. The vaccines contain only noninfectious viruses, so they cannot cause illness. It's a popular belief that this vaccine can cause influenza, but that is untrue.

The most common adverse effect of vaccination is soreness at the site where the needle was inserted. Fever, muscle ache, and severe reactions have been reported in less than one percent of those vaccinated.

We strongly recommend the use of pneumococcal and influenza vaccines for persons at high risk, such as people with diabetes or chronic illness and those over 65 years old.

Get an influenza vaccine once every year; get the pneumococcal vaccine at least once during your lifetime. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact your physician.

Editor's note: Recently there has been considerable controversy over whether or not to get the vaccine. If you're not sure or are very concerned, contact your physician for advice. Only you and your physician can make the best determination for your health and well-being.