Dear Dr. Roach: Many seniors, like myself, have received pneumonia shots within the past five years. Since the flu and coronavirus can result in a form of pneumonia in a severe case, would these shots be helpful to prevent or treat this virus even slightly? If seniors are most vulnerable, then maybe those who may not have received these shots should. Is my conclusion too simple? — M.J.B.
Answer: Pneumonia is a term for an infection of the lung. There are many different causes. The pneumonia vaccines — Prevnar (PCV13) and Pneumovax (PPSV23) — protect against the most common bacterial cause, streptococcus pneumoniae, also called pneumococcus. Unfortunately, it does not protect against the lung infections caused by viruses, like influenza or coronavirus.
However, a bad viral infection, especially flu, can put a person at high risk for pneumonia. Post-flu pneumonia has a very high mortality rate, and many, but not all, are caused by pneumococcus. So, I agree with you that anyone over 65, and many people with chronic heart or lung conditions even if under 65, should get vaccinated against pneumonia.
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