Pneumococcal Vaccination

Are you aware of the risks of pneumococcal disease? Have you had a vaccination? A Newspoll survey focussing on the 65 or over age group has found over one in three people identified as “at risk” are unprotected.

The pneumococcal vaccine has been free for all people aged 65 or over since 1 January 2005. The survey reveals that while 85 percent Australians in the over 65 risk group are aware of pneumococcal disease, only 41 percent said they have not had a pneumococcal vaccination.

Pneumococcal disease is caused by a type of bacteria which lives harmlessly in the throats of many Australians, although it can cause serious consequences to those who are at high risk. In addition to those aged 65 or over, others at high risk include those people with underlying risk conditions such as diabetes, chronic heart disease, chronic respiratory disease (such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD]) or renal disease.

The most common consequence of pneumococcal infection in adults is pneumonia. Other, less common, serious consequences include:

  • Meningitis – inflammation around the brain
  • Septicaemia – blood poisoning
  • Endocarditis – an infection of the heart

The survey results also showed 48 percent of people aged 65 or over are unaware that some people need to be re-vaccinated against pneumococcal disease. The pneumococcal vaccination is generally given once to those aged 65 or over, and then again five years later. It is important to seek advice from your doctor as the timing of re-vaccination varies depending on when the initial vaccination was administered. So if you answered yes to the first question and no to the second question at the beginning of this article, make an appointment with your doctor now.

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