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Pneumonia Immunization

North Vancouver Travel Clinic

What is Pneumococcus:


Pneumococcus disease is a bacterial infection that occurs worldwide and is transmitted from person to person through respiratory droplets or secretions such as mucus or saliva from an infected person or from healthy carriers of bacteria. Pneumococcus bacteria is one of the common agents (besides different kinds of viruses and fungi), which can lead to pneumonia infection and other complications (see below).


Who is at risk:

Anyone could be potentially at risk of acquiring the disease. However, children younger than 5 years of age and elderlies are at much higher risk of experiencing serious complications from the infection.


Symptoms of pneumonia infection:

The initial symptoms of pneumococcal infection may include fever, cough, tiredness, and weakness, and mucus which could have a rusty color or green color and rapid breathing, or the infected person may have difficulty breathing.


Consequences of Infection:

Meningitis, which is the inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, is one of the possible severe consequences of pneumonia infection. Pneumococcal meningitis could lead to death, hearing loss, brain damage or developmental delay, particularly in elderlies and children.

Pneumococcal infection can lead to Bacteremia which is a type of pneumonia infection of the blood. Pneumococcal bacteremia could lead to death, particularly in children and elderly patients.

Pneumonia which is an infection of the lungs can lead to infection of linings of lung and chest cavity and/or inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart.

Pneumococcal infection could also lead to sinus and ear infections, particularly in children.


How is Pneumonia infection treated:

Most pneumococcal infections are treated by broad-spectrum antibiotics at home or at the hospital.


How to prevent it:

Proper handwashing and staying away from people with the suspected pneumococcal infection can help prevent the spread of the pathogen.

There are two different types of vaccines against bacterial pneumococcal infection (pneumococcus ):


Pneumovax -23 vaccine:

Pneumovax-23 protects against 23 different serotypes of the bacterial pneumococcus. Pneumovax-23 is given to children as part of their routine vaccination. Please see B.C. HealthLink for immunization schedule of Pneumovax-23 for infants and children:

Pneumovax-23 is recommended and provided for free to:

  • Individuals 65 years of age or older

  • For individuals who have asplenia, immunosuppression related to disease or therapy

  • Chronic heart disease, lung disease, kidney, or liver disease

  • Diabetic or individuals with cystic fibrosis

  • Homelessness and/or illicit drug use

  • alcoholism

  • Recipients of organ transplant


A one-time booster dose of Pneumovax-23 is given to those who have asplenia, sickle cell disease, immunosuppression related to disease or therapy, chronic kidney disease, or liver disease.


Prevnar-13 vaccine:

The prevnar-13 vaccine protects against 13 different subtypes of pneumococcal bacteria. 12 of the subtypes are the same ones as the ones found inf Pneumovax-23, and one subtype 6A which is an invasive subtype of the bacteria is not found in Pneumovax-23. Prevnar-13 is indicated for adult 50 years of age or older. It is recommended that adults and elderlies to receive both Prevnar-13 and Pneumovax-23 to have full protection.

Prevnar-13 is provided for free as part of routine childhood vaccinations to children. Please check B.C. immunization schedule ( link again ) and adults at high risk of pneumococcal disease such as HIV infection.

Most adults and seniors are not eligible for the free Prevnar-13 vaccine and must pay privately.

The side effects of both vaccinations are mild and include local soreness, redness, swelling, and mild fever.

**The information on this website is only for general informational purposes only and may not be extensive. The information does not, and is not intended to be used to provide travel-related health advice.


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