When it comes to immunization, there’s one disease getting most of our attention. And while it’s true that developing and distributing an effective vaccine for COVID-19 is an important public health issue, the truth is that general health and wellbeing requires a much broader toolkit.
Many Albertans are embracing the flu shot this year to give their bodies added protection, and reduce stress on the healthcare system.
“Many people are unaware that we can vaccinate against pneumonia,” says William Poggemiller, pharmacist and store operator at Rimbey Value Drug Mart. “There is a publicly funded pneumonia vaccine for eligible Albertans over 65, and we can administer it for free here at the pharmacy without a prescription. For those under 65, there’s a different pneumonia vaccine that we can administer, but it’s not publicly funded for most Albertans.”
What is pneumococcal disease?
Pneumococcal disease is caused by bacteria, and can lead to pneumonia (a type of lung infection) as well as meningitis, blood, airway and ear infections. Infections caused by pneumococcal disease are a major cause of hospitalizations and mortality worldwide.
There are two types of pneumococcal vaccine:
- PNEUMO-P23, which is normally given to adults 65 or older
- PNEU-C13, which is normally given to adults age 50 or older
“Both PNEUMO-23 and PNEU-C13 can be given to adults at any age who are considered high risk for developing pneumonia due to their underlying medical conditions or lifestyle,” William says.
Adults considered at high risk for developing pneumonia include people who smoke, and persons with:
- heart disease
- lung disease
- liver disease
- kidney disease
“The best protection we can offer someone who has never been vaccinated for pneumonia is to give them PNEU-C13 first, and then give PNEUMO-P23 eight weeks later. The vaccines are complimentary to each other and we encourage people to consider getting both. In some individuals they may need a booster dose of PNEUMO-P23 in five years,” William says.
Who should get the pneumonia vaccine?
In Alberta, PNEUMO-P23 is free for eligible Albertans over the age of 65.
“You should get the vaccine if you’re over 65, live in a long-term care facility, or are between age two and 65 and have other health conditions that put you at higher risk of serious pneumococcal disease,” William says.
It’s rare to have a serious side effect from the vaccination, but some people experience a mild headache or fever, soreness at the needle site, or feeling tired. The vaccine is 50-80 per cent effective at protecting individuals from a serious infection, and has been in use for almost forty years.
“If you’re not sure about treatment, you can always give us a call at 403-843-2020 to speak with a pharmacist,” William says. “We’ll let you know if you should stop by the pharmacy, or if you need to schedule a visit with your doctor first.”
Find out if you qualify for a pneumonia vaccine by calling Rimbey Value Drug Mart at 403-843-2020 or drop in at 4917-50 Ave. The store is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and continues to offer delivery and curbside pickup to help meet Rimbey’s needs.