This time of the year starts the annual debate about the need for vaccination and protection versus do nothing and wait to treat. Benjamin Franklin once said that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Nowhere is this statement more appropriate than the debate over etting the flu vaccine. There is another debate that occasionally rages and that is the one over the so-called “pneumonia vaccine”. It is important to note that the newer vaccine for pneumonia, PVC13, has been available for about 2 years and has been shown to be very effective in preventing disease in children as well as adults. It is important to understand that the “pneumonia vaccine” protects the recipient only against specific strains of the most common bacterial pneumonia. There are many strains with some being more serious than others. PVC13 protects against the 13 most severe common strains. Interestingly, because of the vaccine we now see more infections with the strains that are not included in the vaccine.
Ultimately, the goal will be to develop a vaccine that includes all strains of pneumococcal bacteria. There are many other types of bacterial pneumonia and we do not have vaccines against all of them. It is important for patients, particularly with lung disease, to get all of the protection possible. A serious bacterial pneumonia in a patient with COPD or asthma can be a life threatening experience. As physicians one of our goals is to keep you out of the hospital. Help us help you by getting vaccinated.