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 In Staying Healthy

Seniors are feeling younger and fitter but that won’t stop them from getting a deadly lung infection, the Lung Foundation Australia has warned.

A vaccination against pneumococcal pneumonia will add up five years to the life of seniors, aged 65 to 74, who remain unaware their age alone makes them more susceptible to developing the disease, the foundation says.

“We are seeing a rise of a generation of healthy, fit and fabulous Australians in their mid-60s who love to travel and care for their grandchildren… but don’t realise that developing pneumococcal pneumonia could change all of that,” foundation member Associate Professor Lucy Morgan said on Tuesday.

Many are unaware the infection can be passed onto grandchildren or vice-versa. Associate Prof Morgan said the vaccination rate of seniors remains low despite efforts to raise awareness. Two-thirds of seniors remain unvaccinated and 40 per cent aren’t even aware of the vaccine’s existence, she said.

Australians aged 65 years or over are in a high risk group and Indigenous Australians are more at risk than non-Indigenous Australians. PneumoVax®23 provides protection against the 23 most common strains of pneumococcal bacteria responsible for most cases of disease in adults in Australia.

The recommended schedule for vaccinations in the 65 years or over age group is one dose on or near 65 years, then a single booster dose 5 years later. If you have received a pneumococcal vaccination within the last 5 years, you should consult your general practitioner or other immunisation provider about whether you require revaccination at this time. Revaccination within three years is not recommended due to the increased risk of local reactions.

If you have previously had a pneumococcal infection you still need to get vaccinated, there are many different types of pneumococcal bacteria, and infection with one type doesn’t provide immunity against the other types. Therefore, it is recommended that you do receive the vaccination.

You can get the vaccine administered by your usual immunisation provider, chemist, general practitioner or local health care centre. The vaccine is free if you are 65 years or over. You do not need to purchase the vaccine from a pharmacist.

The vaccine is very safe. Some recipients may experience mild side effects following pneumococcal vaccination such as some pain or swelling at the injection site and, occasionally, low-grade fever. Like any medicine, vaccines can cause severe allergic reactions, but the chances are extremely remote.

Further information is available from your general practitioner or local health centre, the Immunisation Infoline on 1800 671 811 or the Immunise Australia Program website at http://immunise.health.gov.au/olderaus/pneumococcal.htm

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