Pneumonia causes about three times as many deaths each year as traffic accidents. However, many at-risk people have not yet been vaccinated.
What is pneumonia?
Pneumonia is a serious infection of the lungs. It causes shivering, fever, chest pain, difficulty breathing and a cough with bloodstained or 'rusty' phlegm. Pneumonia leads to death in 5% of cases.
The most common type of pneumonia is pneumococcal pneumonia, caused by a bacterium called 'pneumococcus'. It is usually spread through the air from a cough or sneeze, or can develop as a complication of a cold or flu. Pneumococcal pneumonia is treated with antibiotics, but many cases are resistant to treatment.
Is vaccination safe?
A simple and effective vaccine is available for pneumococcal pneumonia and gives protection in 65-80% of cases. Now is the best time for vaccination as pneumonia is most common in winter and spring.
The vaccine can be given with your flu shot and needs to be repeated every 5 years. The vaccine is well tolerated. One in two people get redness or mild pain briefly at the injection site. Fever and muscle pains occur occasionally. Severe reactions are rare.
The vaccine is free for eligible patients in Victoria and for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders listed below.
Who should be vaccinated?
- All people aged 65 and older.
- Individuals without a spleen.
- People with weakened immunity, eg HIV, myeloma, lymphoma, organ transplant.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged 50 and over and 15-50 at high risk.
- People with a chronic illness eg heart, kidney, lung disease or diabetes.
- Some people after severe head injuries or brain surgery.
Please note this information was correct at time of printing.
For up to date information, speak to your doctor.