When it comes to diseases that pose a threat to public health, pneumonia is often overlooked. Many people associate it with the cold months, but the reality is that pneumonia can strike at any time of the year. Particularly concerning for older adults, whose immune systems are not as robust as they once were, pneumonia can have severe consequences. In the United States alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that at least 1,000 Americans die from pneumonia each week. However, there is good news. Through recommended vaccines, such as those for pneumococcal pneumonia, individuals can protect themselves and reduce the risk of contracting this debilitating disease.
Understanding the Risk Factors:
Pneumonia is a respiratory infection that can affect anyone, but certain risk factors increase its likelihood. Age plays a significant role, with individuals aged 65 and older or 5 years and younger being more susceptible. Additionally, behavioral factors like smoking cigarettes can compromise the respiratory system, making it easier for pneumonia to take hold. Those with chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, or heart diseases are also at higher risk. To safeguard the health of older adults and at-risk populations, awareness of these risk factors is crucial.
The Prevalence of Pneumococcal Pneumonia:
Among the various types of pneumonia, pneumococcal pneumonia stands out as one of the most common forms caused by bacteria. What makes this strain particularly concerning is that having it once increases the likelihood of contracting it again. However, recent medical advancements offer hope in the fight against pneumococcal pneumonia.
The Power of Vaccination:
Vaccination has long been hailed as one of the most effective methods of preventing infectious diseases. In 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved new pneumococcal pneumonia vaccines that offer broader protection than their predecessors. These advanced vaccines cover more forms of the disease, presenting a significant opportunity to enhance immune defenses against pneumonia.
Importantly, age is no longer a barrier to receiving the new pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine. Even if individuals are 65 years and older and have previously received a pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine, they are now eligible for the latest iteration. This development presents a valuable chance for older adults to bolster their immunity against this potentially life-threatening infection.
Accessibility and Coverage:
Unlike the seasonal flu vaccine, which is often administered in the fall, pneumococcal pneumonia vaccination can take place at any time of the year. This flexibility is essential because pneumonia can strike unexpectedly, making year-round protection necessary.
To make the vaccine more accessible, Medicare and most insurances now cover the full cost of the pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine for seniors and at-risk populations. This initiative aims to ensure that financial constraints do not prevent those who need the vaccine the most from receiving it.
Recognizing the importance of safeguarding older Americans’ health, the National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs, in partnership with USA Boxing and the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists (ASCP), has taken proactive steps to spread awareness about pneumonia and the significance of vaccination. Their document outlining the five things to know about pneumonia serves as a vital resource in educating the public about the threat of pneumonia and the solutions available.
Pneumonia is a serious health concern that can affect individuals of all ages throughout the year. Older adults and those with underlying health conditions are particularly at risk, but vaccination against pneumococcal pneumonia offers a powerful defense. With the availability of new, more comprehensive vaccines and increased coverage by insurance providers, protecting oneself from pneumonia has become more accessible than ever before. By staying informed and taking advantage of vaccination opportunities, older Americans can take proactive steps towards safeguarding their health and well-being. Let us collectively promote awareness and action to ensure a healthier future for our communities.