The pneumonia vaccine could save your life

Cricket legend Steve Waugh getting the flu vaccination. Dr Ian Charlton says: “If you feel the flu vaccine is worthwhile, then you should have the pneumonia vaccine as well”.

Cricket legend Steve Waugh getting the flu vaccination. Dr Ian Charlton says: “If you feel the flu vaccine is worthwhile, then you should have the pneumonia vaccine as well”.

People die from pneumonia. Often.

Despite this, there is a lack of awareness about the disease.

Some people don’t know there’s a vaccine against it. Others know about the vaccine but haven’t made the effort to get it.

The Lung Foundation runs a campaign called Know Pneumonia. The foundation has done research that shows people are ignoring the risks of pneumonia.

This includes those most at risk such as people aged 65 and over and those with underlying health conditions like heart and lung disease, diabetes, cancer, chronic asthma and past or present smokers.

The old, frail and young are particularly vulnerable to contracting pneumonia. But it’s a disease that can unexpectedly hit people who are otherwise healthy.

NSW Health data shows that 75 per cent of people aged 65 and over in the Hunter Region received a flu vaccine in 2014-15, but only 53 per cent of those people had the pneumonia vaccine.

Newcastle University Cojoint Professor, Dr Ian Charlton, put it this way: “If you feel the flu vaccine is worthwhile, then you should have the pneumonia vaccine as well”.

“People’s perceptions at weighing up their own risks are such that they don’t see the pneumonia vaccine as important as the more commonly talked about flu vaccine,” Dr Charlton said.

This is a mistake that could cost people their lives.

The vaccine protects against Streptococcus pneumoniae, which causes one of the most severe and potentially life-threatening forms of the disease – pneumococcal pneumonia. It causes about 1.6 million deaths worldwide a year, the Lung Foundation says. 

It can cause a range of diseases, including pneumonia, meningitis (infection of the membranes that enclose the brain and spinal cord), septicaemia/bacteraemia (blood system infection) and middle ear and sinus infections.

National immunisation guidelines recommend pneumococcal vaccination for all Australians aged 65 years and over, along with those with underlying chronic illnesses. 

Most people would never consider not insuring their house and car. Why then, do so many people fail to insure their body? That’s how we see the pneumonia vaccine. It’s like an insurance policy.

Get the vaccine and you’re covering yourself. If you can’t be bothered doing it for yourself, do it for your family.

Issue: 38,522.

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