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Vaccines Aren't Just for Kids, says American Lung Association

Immune systems weaken with age, increasing the risk for serious infectious diseases and the need for vaccinations

(August 17, 2016) - CHICAGO

For more information please contact:

Allison MacMunn
[email protected]

Vaccines aren't just for kids. It's particularly important to remember this during National Adult Immunization Week, August 15-19, as the American Lung Association reminds older Americans to talk to their doctor to see if they are up-to-date on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended vaccinations, including those for lung diseases like pneumococcal pneumonia and influenza.

An estimated 40,000 to 50,000 adults in the United States die from vaccine-preventable infectious diseases or their complications each year.1 More than just a bad cold, influenza and pneumococcal pneumonia are potentially serious lung infections that are among those vaccine-preventable infectious diseases.

Through the Who Pneu?™ campaign, developed in partnership with Pfizer, the American Lung Association is encouraging adults 50 and older to learn more about their personal risk for pneumococcal pneumonia. Adults over 50 are at eight times greater risk of being hospitalized with pneumococcal pneumonia compared to younger adults aged 18 - 49,2 and when hospitalized adults over 50 have an average stay of six days.3

  • Pneumococcal Pneumonia, the most common type of bacterial pneumonia,4 is often spread through coughing or sneezing.5 Common symptoms of pneumococcal pneumonia include high fever, excessive sweating and chills, coughing, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath and chest pain.5

Even healthy adults as young as 50 are at increased risk for pneumococcal pneumonia, because our immune systems naturally weaken with age.6 "You may feel 30 but your immune system is as old as you are," said Norman Edelman, M.D., Senior Scientific Advisor of the American Lung Association. "One of the best things you can do to take charge of your health is to talk to your healthcare provider about receiving CDC-recommended vaccinations."

Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is another serious respiratory illness and is easily spread from person to person.7 Adults, as well as children, are at risk for getting and spreading the flu, and those with lung diseases are at higher risk for developing complications from the flu.7 The CDC recommends that everyone six months of age and older receive an influenza vaccination each and every year.7

  • Flu Influenza is usually spread through coughing or sneezing, or from surfaces that have the virus on them.7 The flu can cause fever, sore throat, cough, chills and muscle aches. Serious complications may include pneumonia, inflammation of the heart and death.7

"It's always better to help prevent a disease than to treat it after it occurs,"8 said Dr. Edelman. "The flu can have a devastating impact on the lives of those whose lungs are already compromised by asthma, COPD and other chronic respiratory conditions."

For more information on lung disease and lung health, visit or call the American Lung Association's Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA.

  1. Trust for America's Health, Infectious Diseases Society of America, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Adult Immunization: Shots to Save Lives. Washington, DC: Trust for America's Health; February 2010.
  2. Jain S, Self WH, Wunderink RG, et al. CDC EPIC Study Team. Community-acquired pneumonia requiring hospitalization among US adults. N Engl J Med 2015;373(5):415-427.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Fast stats: pneumonia. Accessed November 5, 2013.
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Pneumococcal disease. In: Hamborsky J, Kroger A, Wolfe C, eds. Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (The Pink Book). 13th ed. Washington DC: Public Health Foundation; 2015:279-296.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pneumococcal Disease. Risk Factors and Transmission. Updated June 2013. Accessed May 2015.
  6. Weinberger B, Herndler-Brandstetter D, Schwanninger A, et al. Biology of immune responses to vaccines in elderly persons. Clin Infect Dis. 2008;46:1078-1084.
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Key Facts About Influenza (Flu) & Flu Vaccine. Accessed January 23, 2013.
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Why are childhood vaccines so important? Updated May 19, 2014. Accessed December 10, 2014.


About the American Lung Association

The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit:

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