Are You At High Risk?
The flu vaccination is especially recommended for people who are at higher risk and those who have regular contact with people at higher risk. People at higher risk from the flu include:
- People with health conditions such as lung diseases (e.g., chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,asthma)
- Very young children and seniors
- Pregnant people
- Indigenous peoples
- Residents of nursing homes and other chronic care facilities
Why Get the Shot?
Each year in Canada, thousands of people have to be hospitalized due to the health complications stemming from pneumonia and flu. Given that these risks are especially impactful to older adults, keeping our immunizations up to date is a crucial step in protecting our lung health. Without a doubt, vaccines remain the best preventative option to decrease hospitalizations and keep each other safe.
Help Reduce The Risk
It is the most important measure you can take to protect yourself from the flu. It is recommended for everyone aged 6 months or older unless there is a reason it should not be given. The flu vaccination is given every year in the fall. It is needed annually since it contains protection against a new set of viruses every year, plus the immunity you get from the vaccination decreases over time.
Getting the flu vaccination also helps reduce the risk that you will spread the flu to others in your family and community who may be at a higher risk of serious complications. The more people who get the flu vaccination in your community, the less risk to everyone of getting the flu. This is called “herd immunity” or “community immunity”.
Pneumonia can be a complication of getting the flu. Therefore, the flu vaccination helps reduce the risk of both the flu and pneumonia infections.If you are pregnant, getting the flu vaccine can reduce the risk that your baby will get the flu after it is born.
In individuals aged 65 and older, the immune system response to the flu vaccination is not as strong as it is in younger people. Those aged 65 and older may get more benefit from the high-dose flu vaccination, which has four times the usual dose.
The Pneumonia Vaccine: Who Knew?
Pneumococcal vaccinations help protect you against pneumococcal infections such as pneumonia, bacteremia (blood infection) and meningitis (infection of the membrane surrounding your brain and spinal cord).
The main causes of pneumonia:
- Exposure to a germ (bacteria, virus, fungus)
- Weakened immune system
- Not able to cough out the germs/mucus from your lungs
- Pneumonia is occasionally caused by inhaling chemicals (fumes, liquids, particles) in the workplace
- Unintentionally aspirating (inhaling) food or vomit into your lungs can cause “aspiration pneumonia”
Factors that increase your risk of getting pneumonia include:
- Cigarette smoking
- Chronic lung disease (e.g., chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, bronchiectasis, cystic fibrosis) or other chronic diseases (e.g., heart, kidney, liver, anemia, diabetes)
- Very young (less developed immune system) and very old (less effective immune system)
- Residents of a nursing home or other chronic care facility
- Being a patient in a hospital
- “Aspiration pneumonia” can occur when something is aspirated (inhaled) into the lungs. This can be due to:
Brain dysfunction (e.g., dementia, stroke, brain injury) increasing the risk that you will aspirate (inhale) food
Overdose of alcohol or drugs increasing the risk that you will aspirate (inhale) vomit
- Weakened immune system (e.g., HIV/AIDS, taking corticosteroid pills, organ transplant, being treated for cancer)
- Recent surgery
The Pneumococcal Vaccination
Ask your health-care provider about getting the pneumococcal vaccination. For details on when the pneumococcal vaccinations are required, starting at two months of age, see Ontario’s Routine Immunization Schedule.
Some adults may need it every five years. Prevention of pneumonia through immunization is even more important now since some infections have become more resistant to antibiotics.
Pneumococcal vaccinations help protect you against invasive pneumococcal infections such as pneumonia, bacteremia (blood infection) and meningitis (infection of the membrane surrounding your brain and spinal cord).
Registration for the Lung Health Roundtable with Dr. Dawn Bowdish
In case you missed it: Flu or False? Let’s Ask a Pharmacist
On November 4, pharmacist Umberto Leone and Certified Respiratory Educator Chris Haromy set out to unpack some of the biggest myths about the flu shot.