News Release

Health Department of Northwest Michigan
serving Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego Counties
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New recommendation calls for smokers, asthmatics to get pneumococcal vaccine
Shot also recommended for all adults over age 65
and individuals with heart disease, lung disease and diabetes

(February 12, 2009) In light of new recommendations from the American Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), public health officials encourage adults age 19 to 64 who smoke cigarettes and/or who have asthma to receive a pneumococcal vaccine to protect themselves against pneumococcal disease. The ACIP continues to recommend all adults over age 65 receive the vaccine as well as individuals with heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes.

Pneumococcal vaccination appointments are available at Health Department offices in Mancelona, Charlevoix, Petoskey/Harbor Springs, and Gaylord. Cost is $45 for the one-time shot; Medicare, Medicaid and other health insurance coverage are accepted.

“Adults who smoke cigarettes are at substantially increased risk for invasive pneumococcal diseases like pneumonia, bacteremia, and meningitis,” said Joshua Meyerson, MD, Medical Director for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan. “Of course we recommend smoking cessation for people who use tobacco but until they quit, the vaccine helps protect them against pneumococcal disease, an illness that can be very serious.”

Meyerson said the pneumococcal disease kills more people in the U.S. each year than all vaccine-preventable diseases combined.

“It’s much easier to prevent pneumococcal disease than to treat it,” he said. “Drugs such as penicillin were once effective in treating pneumococcal disease, but the disease has become more resistant to these drugs, making treatment for infections like pneumonia, bacteremia, and meningitis much more difficult.”

Individuals should receive a second dose when they are 65 years of age and at least five years has passed since their first dose of pneumococcal vaccine. No more than two lifetime doses are needed.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is an independent body consisting of 15 experts in fields associated with immunization. They provide advice and guidance to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and the U.S Centers for Disease Control (CDC) & Prevention on the control of vaccine-preventable diseases.

“This is the first time the pneumococcal vaccine has been recommended for people who smoke or who have asthma,” Meyerson said. “We want to get the word out to them to get vaccinated so they won’t become infected with pneumococcal disease and spread it to others.”

The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. To schedule an appointment for a pneumococcal vaccination, call 800-432-4121.