Its that time of year again when I start pestering all those that attend the practice with the same question ‘Did you get your flu injections this year?’ I am impressed with the amount of people who have had the flu injection but not surprised with the lack of awareness surrounding the pneumococcal vaccination. I am delighted to be part of the campaign for highlighting the need for people in at risk groups such as diabetes to get the pneumococcal vaccination and have spoke on several radio shows so far this month. So what is the difference between the flu and pneumococcal vaccination and why is it so important?
What is Pneumococcal Disease?
Pneumococcal disease is an infection caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae. The disease causes approximately 200 deaths each year in Ireland, particularly amongst an extensive range of at-risk groups including everyone aged 65 years and older, people with diabetes and those who have a wide range of other medical conditions – even though a preventative vaccine is available from your GP. Pneumococcal bacteria can cause localized infections such as middle ear infections or they can invade the body and cause more serious diseases, such as pneumonia (infection of the lungs), meningitis (inflammation of the lining around the brain), and septicemia (blood poisoning) which can be fatal.
Who is advised to get the pneumococcal vaccination:
1. All infants should be offered pneumococcal conjugate vaccination as part of the routine childhood immunisation schedule.
2. Those aged 65 years and older should be offered vaccination.
3. Individuals with the following conditions are at increased risk of pneumococcal infection, and should be vaccinated:
- asplenia or dysfunction of the spleen including sickle cell and coeliac disease;
- chronic renal disease, renal transplant or nephrotic syndrome;
- chronic heart, lung or liver disease including cirrhosis;
- diabetes mellitus
- . complement deficiency;
- immunosuppressive conditions and those receiving immunosuppressive therapies;
- CSF leaks either congenital or complicating skull fracture or neurosurgery;
- intracranial shunt;
- candidates for, or recipients of, a cochlear implant;
- children under 5 years of age with a history of invasive pneumococcal disease, irrespective of vaccine history;
- smokers and alcoholics
Why is it so Important for People with Diabetes to get the Flu & Pneumococcal Vaccinations?
For people with diabetes, the flu can be more than just about aches and pains, it can mean a longer illness, hospitalization, even death. Diabetes can make the immune system more vulnerable to sever cases of the flu or pneumonia. People with diabetes are 3 times more likely to die from the flu or pneumonia and 6 times more likely to be hospitalized with the flu or pneumonia. While the pneumococcal vaccination is a once off vaccination, because flu viruses change yearly, the flu vaccination is an annual vaccine.
Seven Reasons You Should Know Pneumo – The Real Faces of Pneumo
Because of the lack of awareness amongst the general public and those in the at risk group a campaign called ‘Seven Reasons You Should Know Pneumo – The Real Faces of Pneumo’ has been launched in partnership with Age Action Ireland, the Irish Patients’ Association, Diabetes Ireland, the Asthma Society of Ireland and Sanofi Pasteur MSD.
The Seven Reasons to Know Pneumo campaign aims to highlight that:
- Pneumococcal disease will be present in Ireland this winter and is likely to cause 200 deaths annually
- Six out of seven Irish people over 65 have not received this vaccination
- This leaves approximately 400,000 Irish people over 65 at risk from this bug
- It spreads by contact, coughing and sneezing
- It causes serious illness including pneumonia, meningitis and septicaemia
- Vaccines exist which are recommended by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee
- For those at-risk individuals over two years this is generally a one-off injection available from GPs and is free of charge to people in certain at-risk groups