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Flu vaccine: The other ‘pneumonia shot’

Flu vaccine: The other ‘pneumonia shot’
Infectious Disease News, September 2017
Jeff Brock, PharmD, MBA, BCPS, AQ-ID

Being an infectious disease pharmacist and having children has its advantages. Children contract many different infectious syndromes, which allows me to take advantage of that fact and use them as case examples. In July, my youngest son contracted influenza, which was complicated by pneumonia despite having been vaccinated last season. So, I was curious what the literature showed with respect to influenza vaccination decreasing the incidence of pneumonia.

Acute lower respiratory tract infections (LRTIs), such as pneumonia, are a leading cause of morbidity and mortality. Although we know that everyone is susceptible to the ill effects of influenza (eg, fever, body aches, cough, sore throat), complications that lead to hospitalizations and death can occur. These complications are highest in those aged older than 65 years, those aged younger than 5 years, and those who have medical conditions that increase the risk for complications (eg, immunosuppression, heart disease, chronic lung disease, etc.). According to the CDC, deaths related to pneumonia and influenza last season were at or above the epidemic threshold for 12 consecutive weeks — from Dec. 31, 2016, through March 18, 2017 — with two peaks occurring in week 3 (8.2%) and week 8 (8.1%) in 2017. Compared with other influenza seasons, this last season was considered moderate in nature, with mortality attributed to pneumonia and influenza ranging between 8.7% for the 2011-2012 season and 11.1% in 2012-2013.

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