Pneumonia Vaccines and COPD 

It is not uncommon to have New Year resolutions that center around health. This year, one of your New Year resolutions may be to get caught up on your vaccinations. One vaccine that is highly recommended for people with COPD is the pneumonia vaccine.

The following article will outline why this vaccine is important and highlight the two types of pneumonia vaccines available. As always, your specialist, doctor, nurse, or pharmacist can provide you with more individualized recommendations on whether you should receive this vaccine.

What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a very serious infection of the lungs caused by various bacteria, viruses, and fungi. It is a leading cause of death in the world. Examples of infections that cause pneumonia include:1

  • Influenza virus
  • COVID-19 virus
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae (S. pneumoniae) bacteria

What is the link between pneumonia and COPD?

People with COPD are more likely to get pneumonia. In fact, in the first year of a COPD diagnosis, people are 16 times more likely to acquire pneumonia than those without COPD. In addition, COPD is the most common comorbidity in people with pneumonia. That means people with COPD have a higher risk of pneumonia compared to people with other conditions, such as diabetes or asthma. People with COPD who acquire pneumonia are at a higher risk of:2

  • Severe pneumonia
  • Admission to hospital
  • Worse clinical outcomes

Other risk factors

There are other risk factors, in addition to COPD, that can increase the chance of acquiring pneumonia. These include:3

  • Age - as people get over the age of 65, the risk of hospitalization due to pneumonia increases.
  • Medical conditions - heart failure, diabetes, asthma, history of stroke, and conditions that affect the immune system can all increase the risk of pneumonia.
  • Smoking & alcohol abuse - people who smoke and/or engage in heavy alcohol consumption are also at a higher risk of pneumonia.

One study examined the pathogen, or cause, of pneumonia in people with COPD and found that the most frequent organism identified was the S. pneumoniae bacteria.2

Protecting yourself

Just like there are vaccines to protect you against COVID-19 and the flu, there are vaccines to protect you against the bacteria that commonly cause pneumonia. There are 2 available vaccines for this:4

  • Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) - also known as Prevnar 13
  • Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23) - also known as Pneumovax 23

The difference between the two vaccines is the number of bacteria strains they protect against. Pneumovax protects against 23 different strains, while Prevnar protects against 13.3

Which vaccine should I get?

Most people get the Prevnar vaccine as children and Pneumovax as seniors. People with COPD should get a dose of Pneumovax in their adult years. You may be suggested to get the Prevnar vaccine as well if you have other medical conditions that warrant it.3

Depending on where you live, Pneumovax may be publicly funded for seniors, meaning that you do not need to pay for the vaccine.

Have you had a pneumonia vaccine recently? Share your experiences below!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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