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David Morgan
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Adult Vaccinations Prevent Pneumonia-related Illness and Death

December 23, 2013 - Immunization - Vaccination

Pneumococcal disease, caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, is one of the most common causes of pneumonia among New Mexicans. So far this year, approximately 300 people in New Mexico have been diagnosed with severe pneumococcal disease; 47 (16%) of these people have died from their infection, which is an average of about one death per week. Pneumococcal pneumonia can follow an influenza infection making influenza season a more common time for both diseases. It is estimated that pneumococcal pneumonia among adults accounts for $3 billion of direct health care costs each year in the US.

Pneumococcal or “pneumonia” vaccines are available at many doctors’ offices and pharmacies and can help prevent hundreds of people from becoming ill.

“Approximately 1 out of 3 adults who are recommended to receive the vaccine have never been vaccinated against pneumococcal disease,” said Department of Health Cabinet Secretary Retta Ward, MPH. “We are recommending that adults at high risk request vaccination by their healthcare provider because risk for severe pneumonia increases during the winter months.”

Pneumovax® is a type of pneumonia vaccine that protects against 23 strains of the pneumococcal bacteria and is currently recommended for use in all adults who are older than 65 years of age and for persons who are 2 years and older and: 1) have a long-term health problem (e.g., sickle cell disease, diabetes); 2) have a condition that lowers the body’s resistance to infection (e.g., cancer, HIV/AIDS, chronic lung, kidney, heart or liver disease); or 3) take a medication such as long-term steroids, certain cancer drugs, or radiation therapy. It is also recommended for use in adults aged 19 through 64 years who smoke cigarettes or who have asthma, and for residents of nursing homes or long-term care facilities. Usually, only one dose of the vaccine is needed, but under some circumstances a second dose may be given. Adults should consult their healthcare provider regarding obtaining and scheduling pneumococcal vaccination.

Routine pneumococcal vaccination of children at 2, 4, 6 and 12-15 months of age has been ongoing since 2000.

The New Mexico Department of Health offers pneumonia vaccinations for people without insurance or who are otherwise not able to get immunized. Those with Medicaid or other health insurance should bring their insurance cards with them to the clinic.

The New Mexico Department of Health is one of 10 state health departments funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to proactively monitor and conduct surveillance for severe forms of pneumococcal disease.

For more information on pneumonia and pneumococcal disease in New Mexico visit the New Mexico Department of Health Emerging Infections section of our website.

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