Why it's so important to get pneumonia vaccine

Two vaccines can protect you for life from pneumonia.

For one in 10 people who gets pneumonia, it will be fatal, but doctors say those deaths are preventable.

When Hillary Clinton's pneumonia diagnosis became public, phones in LSU lung expert Dr. Bennett de Boisblanc's office began to ring.

"The problem is huge. There's about 30,000 people in America every year who get pneumococcal pneumonia, which is one of the more common causes of bacterial pneumonia," said  Dr. Bennett de Boisblanc, and LSUHSC pulmonologist and critical care specialist.

His patients are asking about the vaccines to prevent pneumonia. Over at Majoria Drugs in Metairie, customers lined up to get theirs Monday.

"Because I don't want to get pneumonia, because pneumonia can kill people my age and older," said customer Sam Taggard, 66.

There are two vaccines for the most common types of bacterial pneumonia, one old and one new . It is recommend that you get each of them, one year apart, then a booster of the old one five years later. You are then protected for life. 

There is also more urgent advice. The CDC now says everyone needs to get a yearly flu vaccine, which also protects against bacterial pneumonia.

"Most bacterial pneumonias follow the flu. The flu is caused by a virus, but if you can prevent the flu with a flu shot, you don't get the secondary bacterial pneumonias," explained Dr. de Boisblanc. 

Doctors say people who smoke, at any age, are at higher risk of pneumonia. 

"(I have) COPD, former smoker and all, that's why I take extra precautions so I don't get pneumonia because I sort of trashed my lungs by smoking," said Taggard who did not need another pneumonia vaccine today because he had already had both vaccines.

"We have one of the highest lung cancer rates in America, so it's a hot bed for COPD," said Dr. de Boisblanc.
He says anyone older than 65 needs the pneumonia vaccines. That's why the Majoria pharmacist got in line too.

"I was due for it and you reminded me when you called. I give them all day and don't think about me," laughed Al Spitale, chief pharmacist at Majoria Drugs.

You are a higher risk if you are 65 or older, have any heart or lung problems, liver cirrhosis from alcohol or hepatitis, are an alcoholic, have diabetes, a  compromised immune system, or asthma. Doctors start vaccinating at age two for children with bad asthma.

The vaccines won't prevent all types of pneumonia, just the most common. Insurance does pay for the vaccines.  

(© 2016 WWL)


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