Vaccination

Vaccination is a preventive health care measure

that saves lives and reduces disease.

People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can especially benefit from vaccines, as they are at a higher risk for developing certain illnesses. Vaccination works by teaching the body’s immune system to recognize and defend against harmful viruses and bacteria. It has been used for decades to prevent the spread and reduce the severity of diseases. It can also play a significant role in protecting you from infection and reducing your risk of hospitalization.

 

COPD can cause a person’s lungs to become swollen and filled with mucus. This results in frequent cough and shortness of breath, and people with COPD are more likely to get certain infections. Respiratory infections can easily lead to acute exacerbations of COPD (AECOPDs). AECOPDs can cause COPD symptoms to drastically worsen, can lead to hospitalizations, and can even be life-threatening.

 

Vaccines help protect people with COPD from respiratory infections, which in turn reduces the risk of AECOPDs.

Influenza (flu) vaccine

Influenza, also known as the flu, is a severe illness that often occurs in the winter months. It is caused by a virus that mutates (i.e., changes rapidly and often), so a new vaccine is developed every year to fight against the new strain. In order to be adequately protected, it’s important to get the flu vaccine every year.

Side effects of the flu vaccine may include:

• Swelling

• Pain or redness at the injection site

• Slight fever

• Shivering

• Headache

• Aching muscles

Pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine

Pneumococcal disease refers to illnesses caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae. These illnesses can include infections of the blood and even the brain and spinal cord. It is also a very common cause of pneumonia. Pneumonia is a potentially dangerous infection of the lungs, where the tiny air sacs fill with pus or fluid. It can cause symptoms of severe shortness of breath, fever, cough, and frequently requires treatment with antibiotics. Pneumonia, especially frequent occurrences, can also cause long-term scarring and lung damage.

 

Pneumococcal pneumonia happens when the bacteria spreads from person to person through coughing or close contact. If you have COPD, you have a much higher risk of developing pneumonia than the average person. However, research shows that the pneumococcal vaccine helps protect people with COPD against pneumococcus bacteria.

 

Most people only need one dose of this vaccine after the age of 65, but if you have COPD, you may be eligible for a dose earlier, as well as an additional booster dose. It is important to note that this guidance does vary depending on where you live. If you have COPD as well as a condition that severely impairs your immune system (such as an organ transplant or being on chemotherapy), there is a second type of pneumococcal vaccine you may be eligible for as well. You can get this vaccine at the same time as your flu vaccine.

Side effects of the pneumococcal vaccine may include:

• Swelling

• Pain or redness at the injection site

• Slight fever

• Aching muscles

 

Similar to the flu vaccine, these side effects are usually mild and normally go away without treatment in one to two days.

The COVID-19 vaccine

Since 2021, there is a new immunization you should get: The COVID-19 vaccine. The majority of people who have this vaccine will not have any side effects from the shot. However, even if some minor side effects are experienced, the benefits of receiving these vaccines far outweigh the potential side effects.

The virus that is responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic is called SARS-CoV-2, a type of coronavirus. COVID-19 is now well known for causing severe respiratory problems. Since people with COPD already have existing lung problems, they are more likely to experience severe symptoms or complications from COVID-19. It is crucial to do whatever possible to protect yourself from this disease. You can do this by:

• Getting vaccinated

• Cleaning your hands often

• Wearing a mask

• Keeping a safe physical distance from others

•Avoiding contact with people who have cold- or flu-like symptoms

Vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 are now available to every adult in Canada. The Canadian government recommends this vaccine, and the current clinical evidence shows that it is effective and safe, even for people with COPD. To find out which of the COVID-19 vaccines is best for you, talk to your doctor or health care provider.

Side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine may include:

• Swelling

• Pain or redness at the injection site

• Fever

• Headache

• Nausea

• Chills

• Tiredness

• Aching muscles

 

These side effects are typically mild and disappear without treatment in a couple of days.

Prevention is key

COPD is primarily a lung disease. So when people with COPD get an infection that targets their respiratory system, they are at much higher risk for worsening symptoms and hospitalization. Therefore, people with COPD should follow the vaccination protocol recommended by their physicians to help them avoid unnecessary complications. Getting vaccinated is a personal choice that will vary from person to person. To find the right decision for you, discuss vaccinations with your health care team.

 

In addition to getting vaccinated, it’s important to follow safe practices, like frequently cleaning your hands and avoiding coming into contact with people who are sick. If you’re planning on travelling, be sure to discuss other vaccines that can help protect you while you travel. These small steps can go a long way in preventing respiratory infections.

Vaccination can help people with COPD avoid respiratory infections which in turn can help prevent the worsening of their condition. By taking small steps to maintain good health, you will be able to optimally manage your COPD symptoms.

To learn more about COPD symptoms and how they can be effectively managed, read this article.