Doctor’s Tip: The ‘pneumonia shot’ can prevent serious illness and death |

Doctor’s Tip: The ‘pneumonia shot’ can prevent serious illness and death

Fix It documentary

When: 7-9 p.m. Monday, Oct. 8

Where: Community Room, Glenwood Springs Library, 815 Cooper Ave.

What: FIX IT is a documentary that reaches across the political divide making the case for business leaders’ support of major health care reform. It takes an in-depth look at how our dysfunctional health care system is damaging our economy, suffocating our businesses, discouraging physicians and negatively impacting the nation’s health, while remaining un-affordable for a third of our citizens.

Local physicians will answer audience questions after the 40-min screening.

Pneumococcal bacteria are present as part of the normal bacterial microbiome of the nose in many children and adults. However, in certain circumstances, such as when the body is weakened by influenza or other viral upper respiratory infections, pneumococci can cause serious and sometimes fatal illnesses, including the following:

• pneumonia, which even in the age of antibiotics still kills people.

• meningitis, which can cause permanent neurological damage and death.

• sepsis, which is an overwhelming blood infection that is often fatal.

• bone and joint infections.

• ear and sinus infections.

Certain conditions can make people more susceptible to severe pneumococcal infections:

• very young and old age, particularly age less than 2 in children and over 64 in adults.

• absence of a spleen, usually due to trauma.

• chronic heart, liver and kidney disease; diabetes; asthma and emphysema.

• weakened immune system that occurs with conditions such as cancer being treated with chemotherapy; HIV/AIDS; alcoholism.

• medications that weaken the immune system such as long-term cortisone.

• blood disorders such as sickle cell disease.

• cochlear implants.

• smoking.

There are several sub-types of pneumococcal bacteria. A few decades ago, vaccines were developed that are effective against many of these sub-types. Although the vaccines are not 100 percent effective, immunized people who develop pneumococcal disease usually have less severe disease, with shorter courses, compared with non-immunized people.

PCV13 vaccine (brand name Prevenar) is given to children at ages 2, 4, 6 and 12-15 months of age. Children age 6 through 18 and adults age 19 to 65 should also be given the PCV13 if they have any of the risk factors listed in the second paragraph. All adults age 65 and older should also receive the PCV13.

Another pneumococcal vaccine, called PPSV23 (brand name Pneumovax), should be given to all adults 65 and older; and to and adults younger than 65 if they have any of the conditions listed in paragraph 2.

Pneumonia shots can be obtained in most doctors’ offices, most pharmacies, and county public health offices. It takes 2-3 weeks for them to “kick in.” Side effects other than minor aching around the injection site are rare.

The bottom line is that to prevent serious illness and death from pneumococcal infections, and to prevent less serious illness such as pneumococcal ear and sinus infections: (1) All children should receive 4 doses of PCV13. (2) All adults 65 and older should receive PCV13 and the PPSV23 (Pneumovax), although not at the same visit. (3) Adults under 65 and with conditions listed above, or who have children with these conditions, should check with their health care provider or a public health nurse for recommendations. This information is also provided by the CDC (Center for Disease Control) on the internet.

Dr. Feinsinger, who retired from Glenwood Medical Associates after 42 years as a family physician, has a nonprofit Center For Prevention and Treatment of Disease Through Nutrition. He is available for free consultations about heart attack prevention and other medical issues. Call 970-379-5718 for an appointment. For questions about his columns, email him at

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