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Pneumonia vaccine not likely to help with coronavirus, UCLA expert says

Questions are being raised about whether existing vaccines that target other diseases can help with COVID-19.

As the novel coronavirus spreads rapidly across California and the nation, the race is on to develop a vaccine.

And questions are being raised about whether existing vaccines that target other diseases can offer help in the fight against the deadly, highly contagious COVID-19.

Here is one such question.

Q: Seniors are supposed to get a pneumonia shot a year apart, a total of two, does that help them in any way from getting the severe effects of the coronavirus?

A: Probably not.

Dr. Tisha Wang, associate professor of clinical medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and director of pulmonary and critical care services for Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, explains why.

“The pneumonia vaccines that are recommended for seniors are designed to protect seniors from the common bugs that cause bacterial pneumonia,” Wang wrote in an email.

“Unfortunately COVID-19 is a virus and not a bacteria, so it is unlikely that the pneumonia vaccines would have a direct effect on someone getting COVID-19 and/or the severity of illness of someone’s COVID-19 infection.”

That said, some people who are infected by viruses, such as influenza, are more prone to contracting bacterial pneumonia later. Wang said it is not yet known whether that is the case for people who are infected with COVID-19.

“During a time when many hospitals are full, it would be important to get these pneumonia vaccines to better protect seniors against bacterial pneumonia,” she wrote.