Vaccines have turned the tide against some of the most serious diseases, helping us to live longer and healthier lives. Many adults think that vaccines are just for kids, but unfortunately, the shots we get as children won’t protect us forever. Immunization rates for Canadian adults are quite low. It is important that adults get vaccinated too.

The truth is that shots given to you during childhood may not be enough to protect you now. Your immune system ages just like the rest of your body, leaving you more vulnerable to infections that can result in disease and death. That risk is even greater if you have a chronic health condition like lung disease.

One of the biggest threats to people over 65 is pneumococcal disease. It can cause pneumonia, meningitis and blood stream infections. It is a major cause of death worldwide - especially in infants and older adults. That is why the Canadian Advisory Committee on Immunizations (NACI) recommends that all adults over 65 get a vaccine for pneumococcal disease.

Protect Yourself - and Others!

Vaccines not only protect you, but the people around you as well. Whether you have grandchildren or grandparents, getting the pneumococcal vaccine is very important if you have close contact with very young or elderly individuals. That said, receiving an adult vaccine does not mean you will never contract the disease.

What is Pneumococcal Disease?

Pneumococcal disease is caused by a common bacteria (Streptococcus pneumonia) and is easily spread between people who are in close contact. It can cause a wide variety of infections ranging from relatively mild to fatal. It is generally divided into two categories. Invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) occurs when bacteria invade parts of the body such as the blood or spinal fluid. It is more severe, but fortunately less common. It can cause potentially fatal diseases such as meningitis (infection of fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord). It may also cause sepsis – blood poisoning that can cause severe damage to the lungs, urinary tract, brain and heart. Pneumonia is the second type of IPD. It is an infection of the air sacs in one or both lungs. It can be mild or short-lived. However, pneumonia is the most common cause of pneumococcal death. Non-invasive forms of the disease generally cause milder symptoms like ear and sinus infections.

About Vaccines

Vaccines allow your immune system to recognize specific germs so you can better react to them in the future. One way to think of your immune system is as a standing army of fighter cells - ready to go into battle. Just as soldiers perform different functions, so do the cells in your immune system. Some, such as T-cells and B-cells, are key players in your immune system army. Once they kill off an invader, some of them are converted to memory cells. These memory cells will stay on alert for years, patrolling your body for invaders. If your body encounters an invader again, your body is more prepared to fight it off. Pneumococcal vaccines for adults decrease your chances of infection of pneumococcal bacteria by helping your body recognize and fight harmful germs. There are two different types of pneumococcal vaccines available in Canada and your physician will choose the most appropriate one for your situation.

Did You Know?

A study in 2008 evaluated patients whom they identified as at risk of heart attacks and looked back in their records to see their pneumococcal vaccination status. They found that, compared to controls, the patients who were vaccinated against pneumococcus at least 2 years prior had a 50% reduction in the risk of heart attack!

In Summary

  • Invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) mostly affects young children, adults 65 and older, and those with impaired immune systems or health conditions (such as heart and lung disease or HIV)
  • Pneumonia is one of the leading causes of death - with adults 55 and older accounting for the majority of cases
  • Pneumococcal infections are becoming more difficult to treat as bacteria become more resistant to some of the most commonly used antibiotics
  • The pneumococcal vaccine prevents serious blood, brain and lung infections caused by Strep Pneumonia bacteria. It can also prevent against heart attacks caused by pneumonia.


Vaccinations not only protect you but the people around you as well. If you are protected, you can protect others.

Be proactive!

  • Ask your doctor about the pneumococcal vaccine if you are 65 or older, or have a lung or heart condition or conditions that affect your immune system.
  • Ask about your personal vaccinations status! ( Eg. Tetanus, Hepatitis A&B, etc.)
Are you up to date and protected?

Your Pharmasave Smith Drugs Pharmacist,
Norm Corriveau, B.Sc. Phm

(14 references available upon request)