While the Public Health Agency of Canada recommends a pneumonia vaccine for all adults over 65 years of age, we often hear from clients that they aren’t interested in this vaccine because they consider themselves healthy.  However, that is exactly what the Prevnar20 vaccine is for – to keep older adults healthy!  Did you know that a pneumonia infection in older adults can lead to lasting, long-term health effects, even after the initial recovery?  In this blog, we will explain more about these potentially life-threatening conditions and the lasting consequences they may have, even for those otherwise healthy older adults. We will also tell you everything you need to know about the Prevnar20 vaccine.


Understanding Pneumococcal Infection

Pneumococcal infection is a serious infection of the lungs that is caused by a bacteria called Streptococcus Pneumoniae. It is the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia worldwide. It can also infect the blood (septicemia), and the lining of the brain (meningitis). The risk of pneumococcal infection is highest in young children, older adults, and those with certain underlying health conditions like diabetes or heart disease, for example. But older adults tend to be at higher risk of pneumococcal disease for a few reasons. With age, the immune system naturally begins to weaken, which can make older adults more susceptible to infections. Underlying health conditions that often come with age can also place older adults at higher risk of infection. Pneumococcal pneumonia is also a common complication in older adults following infection with the flu. In Canada, pneumococcal infection is most common in the winter and spring. The bacteria are spread from person-to-person by coughing, sneezing or talking. It can also be spread by objects shared by mouth, such as food, drinks, or cigarettes. Due to these increased health risks, it is always a good idea to visit your physician or a travel clinic like TMVC to talk about your risks and see if Prevnar20 will benefit you.


Lasting Effects of Pneumococcal Infection

There are many lasting effects and symptoms that the Pneumococcal infection can cause, including hospitalization and death. Those who recover from the initial infection can be left with long term health effects. These can include:

  • the onset of new medical conditions
  • worsening of existing health conditions like COPD, heart disease, and neurological impairments
  • Development of Meningitis
  • Hearing Loss
  • Blood Infection
  • Sepsis

Many older adults who recover from pneumonia never fully recover to their health status before infection. Ultimately, pneumococcal infection can lead to a reduced quality of life in the long-term, as well as a decreased life expectancy.


Pneumococcal and Travel

Are you planning a trip? You should be aware that the risk of being exposed to pneumococcal bacteria can increase while travelling. The risk is highest especially when travelling to developing countries where immunization rates are lower.  If you are planning to go on a cruise, you are also at an increased risk of exposure. The most common disease outbreaks on cruises are respiratory infections, including pneumococcal pneumonia. Come home from your travels with great memories, NOT a pneumococcal infection! Book your appointment with us today and have one thing less to worry about before your trip!


How Does the Prevnar20 Vaccine Work?

Curious about how the vaccine actually works? The vaccine works by triggering your immune system to build up protective antibodies against the bacteria, so that if your body is exposed to the pneumococcal bacteria, it will activate those antibodies to kill the bacteria before they can cause infection. The Prevnar20 vaccine can provide protection against 20 strains of pneumococcal bacteria.


Who Should Get the Prevnar20 Vaccine?

Pneumococcal vaccination with Prevnar20 is recommended for:


  • All adults 65 years of age and older
  • Adults with certain underlying medical conditions (e.g., diabetes, chronic heart, kidney, lung, or liver diseases, cancer, immunocompromising conditions)
  • Adults with certain risk factors (e.g., smoking, living in a long-term care facility)


There are other vaccines besides Prevnar20 that can be used to prevent pneumococcal infection. However, the Prevnar20 vaccine has been shown to work better than other pneumonia vaccines. It causes a better antibody response and lasting immune memory compared to the Pneumo23 vaccine. It also covers more strains of bacteria compared to the Prevnar13 vaccine. Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends the Prevnar20 vaccine for adults over the Pneumo23 and Prevnar13 vaccines. If you have never received a vaccine for pneumonia, it’s recommended to receive Prevnar20 so that you do not need to receive any more vaccines for pneumonia in the future. If you received Pneumo23, you should wait five years before Prevnar20. If you received the Prevnar13 vaccine, you should wait one year before receiving the Prevnar20 vaccine.


Don’t Wait!


When it comes to pneumococcal pneumonia, prevention is number one. There are many long-term effects that aren’t worth the risk of not getting vaccinated. Protect yourself from pneumococcal pneumonia with the Prevnar20 vaccine! The vaccine is available at all of TMVC’s clinic locations. You can book your appointment by simply calling us at 1-888-288-8682 or book online today!