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Should Cancer Survivors Receive The Pneumonia Vaccine?

The most common type of bacteria that causes pneumonia is called streptococcus pneumoniae. The most common type pneumonia in the United States is pneumococcal pneumonia. This can be a very serious disease. Pneumococcal pneumonia may cause high fever, cough, and stabbing chest pain. There is currently a pneumococcal vaccine called Pneumovax. Like the flu vaccine which decreases the chances of getting influenza, the Pneumovax can reduce the chances of getting pneumococcal pneumonia. The vaccine will not prevent viral pneumonia or pneumonia caused by other bacteria. The Pneumovax differs from the flu shot because it is only given once every 5 years.

Now that it is October the question arises as to whether individuals with cancer and their families should get the Pneumovax. This is an important question to discuss every year in the Fall. It is essential that individuals with cancer discuss this with their own health care providers (e.g. oncologists or primary care provider) so that the decision may be based on their individual case.

Individuals with cancer (especially if undergoing treatment) should be evaluated as to whether they have had the Pneumovax in the past 5 years and whether the individual has a history of pneumonia. Individuals CAN be given the Pneumovax and flu shot at the same time, but in different arms. However, you should NOT get the Pneumovax if you have a fever or feel sick.

The Pneumovax may cause soreness, redness, and swelling at the vaccine site as well as fever, muscle aches and malaise.

If you would like more information regarding the flu shot you can contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at 800-232-4636 or email to NIPINFO@cdc.gov on the intranet at http://www.cdc.gov/nip/publications/VIS/vis-ppv.pdf or
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