Doctors urge pneumonia vaccinations before winter

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff writer, with CNA

Tue, Nov 13, 2012 - Page 3

On World Pneumonia Day yesterday, doctors called on individuals at high-risk of acquiring pneumonia to get vaccinated against both the infectious lung disease and seasonal flu in order to have double protection ahead of the winter influenza season.

“Pneumonia has caused more than 1.6 million deaths worldwide and Taiwanese people aged 50 years old and above are found to be particularly vulnerable to the infection … they account for as many as 90 percent of all lung disease-related deaths in the nation,” National Taiwan University Hospital pediatrician Huang Li-ming (黃立民) said.

Huang said children aged five years old and below are prone to infection from acute diseases, especially those who have suffered from streptococcus pneumoniae, which is particularly difficult to treat and presents a mortality rate of more than 10 percent in elderly people.

Influenza A virus subtype H3N2, a highly contagious virus that could cause severe pneumonia, could start circulating in this year’s winter influenza peak season, Huang said, urging people at high risk of getting seasonal flu to receive both streptococcus pneumonia and flu vaccinations.

Huang also tendered a three-level infection rate estimation mechanism for people to learn about their chances of acquiring pneumonia.

“Children aged below five and senior people aged above 50 are categorized in the red alert group and are urged to immediately get vaccinated; people who are infected with respiratory diseases once or twice during autumn and winter are put in the yellow alert group and should remain vigilant and observant of their physical condition; people who keep regular hours, eat a balanced diet and exercise routinely are classified into the green alert group and have the lowest infection risk,” Huang said.

Meanwhile, Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Chou Jih-haw (周志浩) said the agency is scheduled to expand its scheme of state-funded 13-Valent Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccines (PCV13) next year to cover all children aged between two and five years old, as well as elderly people aged above 75.

The scheme is currently applied to children aged below five who are at high risk of pneumonia, people in low and lower-middle-income households and children born after 2010 and living in remote areas.