People suffering from lung diseases such as Asthma, Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (COPD), lung fibrosis, diabetes, kidney failure, liver diseases, heart diseases and other immune system compromising conditions are at a much higher risk of developing serious complications from diseases which can be prevented or reduced from the use of vaccines. There are two main vaccines for respiratory illnesses or illnesses associated with the lungs and breathing apparatus, which are recommended for almost all patients with lung disease, namely the Influenza or Flu vaccine and Pneumococcal vaccine. Recently vaccination against Covid-19 has also become available and is considered and recommended as a necessity.
Do Vaccines for diseases provide complete protection from developing Influenza & Pneumonia?
Vaccines provide significant protection from most commonly present respiratory viruses (Influenza A & B) and bacteria (Pneumococcus) in our community which infect individuals causing illnesses from simple flu like syndromes to severe Pneumonia and respiratory failure. However, there are many other viruses, bacteria and fungi that can also cause infections that are not covered by these vaccines. Vaccines protective against diseases reduce the incidence and severity of infections caused by diseases such as Influenza or the seasonal flu and pneumococcal pneumonia.
Immunosuppressive medications, illnesses and vaccinations.
Patients on immunosuppressive medications like steroids and other diseases that impact and alter the functioning of the immune system as well as those with chronic illnesses like diabetes, chronic kidney and liver diseases, amongst others, are at a much higher risk of developing severe infections. Yearly Influenza vaccine and once in a lifetime Pneumococcal vaccine (Prevenaar 13) are strongly recommended for such high-risk patients. You should discuss with your chest specialist or your general physician when it might be most appropriate for you to be vaccinated.
Vaccination in pregnant and lactating mothers.
There is no contraindication for a pregnant women or nursing mothers to receive vaccination unless any specific reasons provided to you by your physician. The WHO and CDC have considered Covid vaccines to be safe for pregnant and lactating mothers. Often the risk to the unborn or new-born child is significantly greater from infection than the minimal possible risk of side effects of vaccination.
Vaccination during acute illness.
Anyone suffering from any acute or active illness should avoid getting any kind of vaccination. If you are suffering from symptoms of fever, cough, flu, breathlessness, wheezing, vomiting and /or loose motions, consult your doctor before proceeding for vaccination. Once you are symptom free, it is safe for you to proceed with vaccination. Sometimes certain vaccines covering different diseases can be given to a patient at the same time. Your doctor will advise you whether it is safe to receive multiple types of vaccination at the same time or whether it is advisable for you to wait and receive one vaccination at a time.
If you suffer from any serious illness, is important you speak to your doctor about any vaccinations so that you can be alerted to any special precaution you may need to take.
If you have experienced an allergic reaction to any other vaccine in the past, discuss this history of a reaction with your doctor before proceeding with vaccination.
Patients who are immunosuppressed or taking immunosuppressants such as steroids or other immune modulating agents should be aware that their body’s response to vaccine may be altered and such individuals may have a reduced response. Your doctor will advise you if any booster vaccination is recommended to give you maximal protection.
After taking the vaccine there are some common side effects which you may experience. Local effects include pain, swelling, redness and limitation of movement of the injected arm for some time, and symptoms like headache, light headedness, fatigue, mild fever, chills, and nausea may occur. These are self-limiting and only symptomatic treatment like Paracetamol or Ibuprofen may be required.
Severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) are rare. Symptoms of a severe reaction or anaphylaxis includes rash, itching, swelling of the face, lips and throat which may lead to difficulty in breathing and a choking sensation and low blood pressure. If any of the above symptoms are developing, you must not wait at home and proceed to seek immediate medical assistance.
Can I take Flu and pneumococcal vaccine on same day?
Yes, Flu and Pneumococcal vaccine can be taken on same day. However, you should not proceed in doing so without the advice from your doctor. Covid vaccinations are not given the same day as other vaccines.
I have Asthma, would vaccination make me ill?
No, there is no evidence that vaccines will cause an exacerbation of asthma
I had Pneumonia or Covid, do I still need to get vaccinated for Flu, Pneumonia or Covid-19?
Once a person has suffered from pneumonia, Flu or Covid you may still get a recurrence of this infection. Vaccines will reduce the chances of recurrence or repeat infections. In many cases as is the case with Covid-19 vaccines, vaccination cannot reduce the risk of infection to zero but it can and does make it highly likely that a patient who has been vaccinated will suffer milder symptoms and not have to face hospitalization.
Is vaccination with Flu, Pneumococcal and Covid-19 safe during pregnancy?
Yes, CDC and WHO have approved the administration of these vaccines during pregnancy. But it is advisable to get your OB/GYN approval before proceeding with any new treatment. Patients who are considering getting pregnant are also advised to proceed with vaccination.
INFORMATION SPECIFIC FOR THE INFLUENZA OR FLU VACCINE:
Flu is an infection caused by a virus called Influenza (A & B). The infection from this virus leads to mild symptoms of fever, cough and body aches to more severe symptoms causing pneumonia and requiring hospitalization and even death. The flu vaccine reduces the risk of getting Influenza.
Who can take the vaccine?
It is recommended to get annual influenza vaccinations for everyone aged 6 month or older, especially for people at high risk. Flu vaccine is even recommended for pregnant women. The timing of the flu vaccine is from October to February each year when new strains have been identified. The annual vaccine is manufactured yearly and includes protection against those strains of the flu virus that are most likely to cause infections that year. Patients who are considered high risk for being affected by Influenza and suffering serious complications from it include patients with chronic asthma, COPD, Diabetes Mellitus, chronic kidney, liver and heart disease amongst other less common diseases.
Potential common side effects of vaccines
Side effects of vaccine are very uncommon and include local pain at the injection site, fever and body aches that resolves in a couple of days. In very rare instances more serious reactions can occur. On balance the benefits of receiving vaccines far outweigh the risk of vaccination.
Some vaccines such as the Covid-19 vaccine are to be administered in two doses, does taking a second dose of the flu vaccine provide better immunity?
Studies have not found any evidence that repeating the flu shot during same “season”, which can be thought of as the same year provides any added benefit. Influenza or flu vaccines are considered effective as single doses taken on an annual basis.
If I take Flu shot, does it reduce or increase the risk of having infection from Covid-19?
There is no scientific data to prove if there is any increased or decreased risk of developing Covid-19 infection after taking Flu vaccine. The flu vaccine does not protect against Covid 19 infection. This risk of infection with Covid -19 can only be reduced by receiving the Covid-19 vaccine
INFORMATION SPECIFIC TO THE PNEUMOCOCCAL VACCINE:
Pneumococcal vaccine provides protection against some strains of a bacteria called Streptococcus Pneumonia which is the commonest cause for bacterial pneumonia. The infection spreads from person to person through coughing, sneezing and close contact.
There two vaccines available for Pneumococcal infection are:
Prevnar 13: is given as a single dose, to adults 18 years and older. For children and adolescents follow the local immunization program of the country.
PPSV-23: is given as a single dose to adults 65 years; and older. In adults 19 through 64 years with chronic medical conditions like chronic asthma, COPD, lung fibrosis, diabetes, kidney failure, liver diseases and heart diseases, a second dose is recommended after 5 years of the first vaccine.
Both vaccines (Prevenaar 13 and PPSV23) can be administered with a gap of one year.
Side effects of vaccine are very uncommon and include local pain at the injection site, fever and body aches that resolves in a couple of days.
If I have taken Pneumoccocal vaccine, can I still develop Pneumonia?
Yes. Both Prevnar 13 and PPSV 23 provide protection against common strains of Streptococcus Pneumonia, which is the most common cause of pneumonia. However, there are many others microorganisms which can cause Pneumonia to an individual at any stage of life.
INFORMATION SPECIFIC TO THE COVID-19 VACCINE IN PAKISTAN
There are many vaccines against Covid-19. Each vaccine provide immunity by generating antibodies against Covid-19 virus. All persons above the age of 18 years are recommended to get vaccine against Covid-19 by the government of Pakistan
Vaccine available in Pakistan are CanSino, Sinopharm, Sinovac, AstraZeneca and Sputnik. These vaccines are available in different hospital. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have recently become available through the COVAX initiative
For latest information go to www.covid.gov.pk
Why should I get vaccinated, if I can get infection from Covid-19 despite vaccination?
The purpose of the Covid-19 vaccination is to provide protection against the infection and related complications including hospitalization and death. It is not a treatment but a prevention nor reduction of risk. Vaccination reduces the chances of developing severe infection and reduces the chances of hospitalization.
I had Covid infection how soon can I take the vaccine?
As soon as you have regained complete recovery from your illness, you can get your vaccine. Your doctor will provide your clearance to proceed with vaccination.
I have Covid antibodies should I still need vaccination?
If you have antibodies against Covid-19 virus, it means your body have developed immunity from a prior infection. It is still recommended to get Covid vaccination.
Should I wait for 3 months after having Covid infection to be vaccinated?
There is no data to prove how long a person is to wait after having Covid-19. It is recommended to get vaccinated as soon as a person recovers from the illness.
I developed Covid infection after my first jab of the Covid-19 vaccine, when can I take my second jab and do I still need to be vaccinated?
Post infection, its recommended to get vaccination as soon as you have regained recovery. Yes, you do require completion of your course of vaccination to achieve optimal immunity.
I was not able to get my second jab of Covid vaccine on recommended date, when do I take it?
Each brand of vaccine has their own protocol, your health care provider will be able to guide you this regards. But it is generally recommended to not delay your second shot for not more then 4-6weeks.
Do I still need to take precautions after having vaccinated?
Yes, standard precaution must be continued, handwashing, wearing mask, social distancing and avoiding crowds.
Is there any vaccine superior to the other, should I wait for the better one?
All the vaccine available have been approved by the WHO. Their efficacy or effectiveness does vary, but having been vaccinated rather than waiting for the “best” vaccine is the far safer thing to do.
Should I take a blood thinner between the two jabs?
There is no scientific approach to take any blood thinners between two shots of Covid-19.
Is is true that people taking blood thinners cannot take the Covid-19 vaccine?
No, this is incorrect. No data supports that use to any blood thinners should prevent people from taking Covid-19 vaccine. The only side effect is development of localized bruising or a hematoma (collection of blood under the skin) at the injection site. This gets better on its own in a few days and should be of no consequence. If you still have concerns about this, you can reach your doctor for their advice on this.
How long does the immunity last after Covid vaccination?
It is not certain what exact duration of protection is provided by current Covid-19 vaccination. Studies to evaluate this are under progress. In time the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) will issue recommendations should further booster doses of the Covid-19 vaccine be needed.
Vaccination for common but serious diseases is the sensible and right thing to do to protect yourself and your loved ones from unnecessary ill health and hospitalizations. Medical data supports the opinion that Influenza vaccine, Pneumococccal vaccine and the Covid 19 vaccination provide decreased risk from serious complications related to these infections and re-infections from these diseases.
Should you or anyone you know require treatment for diseases of the chest and lung, or should you require advice and information regarding vaccines used in the maintenance of health specific to patients suffering from lung diseases, please contact The Chest Clinic-Dr. Javed Husain & Associates. Dr. Javed Husain is the lead pulmonologist & critical care intensivist at The Chest Clinic- Dr. Javed Husain & Associates based in Karachi.
Dr. Javed Husain is a US trained and United States Board Certified specialist in Pulmonary Medicine, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine. He has over 20 years of experience dealing with patients with pneumonia, bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, lung infections, lung cancers and all types of chest and lung diseases. Dr. Javed is licensed to practice as a chest specialist and critical care intensivist in both in the United States as well as in Pakistan. If you or anyone you know needs expert pulmonary in-patient (in-hospital) or outpatient care within a safe and skilled environment, please call The Chest Clinic for an appointment to see Dr. Javed Husain. Both in person and online consultations are possible by calling +92301 8479066 or reach us through our website at www.thechestclinic.pk to set up an appointment. At The Chest Clinic- Dr. Javed Husain & Associates, our team understands the value of expert, timely, ethical and compassionate care and strives to provide the highest quality care to every patient, every single time.