Vaccinations: One size does not fit all

Different populations have varying needs

Although many home health agencies address flu vaccinations, either formally or informally, more agencies neglect the pneumonia vaccine, says William Schaffner, MD, chairman of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN.

"Pneumococcal pneumonia is the most common type of pneumonia and kills up to 12,500 people each year," he says.

The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine is recommended for adults 65 years and older; the vaccine can only be administered every five years, Schaffner adds.

It can, however, be administered at any time of the year, he says.

Flu vaccine is recommended for all adults ages 50 and older, as well as for adults with underlying medical problems such as heart or pulmonary disease, and any metabolic disease such as diabetes, renal disease, or any condition in which the immune system is compromised, Schaffner says.

"The best time to vaccinate high-risk groups is early October through November because this reduces the risk that the patient will become ill if exposed during the height of the flu season," he says.

Don’t forget that children also may require flu vaccinations, Schaffner points out.

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices now recommends that children be-tween the ages of 6 months and 23 months be vaccinated because the illness can cause severe complications," he says.

The American Academy of Pediatricians and the American Academy of Family Practitioners endorses this recommendation, he adds.

Any child between the ages of 2 and 19 who has heart disease, diabetes, or any lung disease such as asthma, should also receive the flu vaccine, Schaffner says.