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August is National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) — a month dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of vaccination for people of all ages. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all adults get the influenza vaccine annually. The CDC also recommends that adults over the age of 65 and adults with chronic lung conditions get the pneumococcal vaccine.

In the United States, public awareness of the importance of vaccination is low. The American Lung Association reports that 40-50,000 adults die from vaccine-preventable infectious diseases every year. This August, we’re here to provide information on 2 important vaccines to know about if you suffer from chronic lung disease. 

Influenza Vaccine

A new flu vaccine is administered every flu season because the strain of flu going around changes every year. Influenza is a contagious disease that causes symptoms including fever, body aches, chills, fatigue, sore throat, runny nose and cough.

If you have chronic lung disease, you have a higher risk of developing serious complications from the flu. For people with compromised lung function, the flu can lead to the development of pneumonia and other respiratory infections. Even mild symptoms of the flu, pneumonia or another respiratory tract infection can cause airway inflammation, difficulty breathing and exacerbations. Respiratory infections are a primary cause of exacerbations, and frequent exacerbations can further disease progression.

The flu season runs from October through May, and vaccines are usually available starting in August. 

Pneumococcal Vaccine

There are 2 types of pneumococcal vaccines: Pneumovax 23 (PPSV23) and Prevnar 13 (PCV13). PPSV23 protects against 23 types of pneumococcal disease, while PCV13 protects against 13 types of pneumococcal disease. Pneumococcal diseases are infections caused by the bacteria streptococcus pneumoniae; common infections are meningitis, bacteremia, sepsis, ear infections, bronchitis, sinusitis and pneumonia. Some invasive types of pneumococcal disease — like meningitis or sepsis — can be life-threatening conditions.

According to the American Lung Association, people with chronic lung disease have a 7.7 times higher risk of developing pneumococcal pneumonia than adults with healthy lungs. According to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), 1 million adults contract pneumococcal pneumonia annually, and the disease accounts for 400,000 hospitalizations a year. Developing pneumonia increases your chances of experiencing exacerbations, which have been linked to faster progression of chronic lung disease. 

The CDC recommends that adults between ages 19-64 receive 1 dose of PPSV23 and that adults over the age of 65 receive 1 dose of PCV13 and 1 dose of PPSV23 (adults who have already received 1 dose of PPSV23 should receive a second dose after they turn 65). 

Should You Get Vaccinated?

If you have chronic lung disease, talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of vaccination, and follow your physician’s recommendations if getting vaccinated is on your lung disease treatment plan. 

Stronger lungs are less susceptible to infections like the flu and pneumonia — consider trying cellular therapy at Lung Health Institute to treat chronic lung inflammation. Cellular therapy uses healing properties in your body’s own cells, which may reduce airway inflammation and improve lung function. If you are interested in learning more, contact one of our patient coordinators today.

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