Q & A: The Pneumococcal Vaccine with Penny Hill, infection control and employee health manager
Penny Hill has been a nurse at San Juan Regional Medical Center for 25 years. Of her many roles and responsibilities, she promotes employee health, administers vaccines, and researches vaccine safety, such as which vaccines can go together and which ones can’t.
We sat down with Hill to get some answers to common questions about the pneumococcal vaccine.
Q: What’s the pneumoccocal vaccine?
A: The pneumococcal vaccine is effective against 23 strains of Streptococcal pneumoniae—that’s a bacteria—which can cause pneumonia and other serious illnesses and infections.
Q: How is it different than the flu vaccine?
A: One is for a bacterial infection while the other is for a viral infection. The flu vaccine is for a viral infection where three strains of the influenza virus are included in the vaccine. I think some people think the flu vaccine protects against all illnesses throughout the winter, but it doesn’t protect against colds or other types of viruses. It’s very specific to those three types of influenza virus.
Q: Who should get the pneumococcal vaccine? Is the pneumococcal shot administered at a free community clinic similar to the flu shot?
A: Some high risk people should get the vaccine, but they only need to get it maybe two times in their adult life before age 65 and only once after that.
Now, there’s some confusion that a person needs the pneumococcal vaccine every five years. If you do need to have a pneumococcal vaccine, it needs to be five years since the last one, which is hard to discern at a free clinic. Because there are special rules that apply to the pneumococcal vaccine, it’s better to review the need for the vaccine with your doctor as they have your current vaccination record. This would be a bit more difficult at a vaccine clinic.
Q: What recommendation do you have to those who are unsure about the last time they received the pneumococcal vaccine?
A: I’d say check with your doctor—they can advise you the best. If you’re not high risk and don’t have a chronic medical condition, then it may not be necessary before the age of 65.
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