A CALL TO ARMS

HEALTH Yes, we’ve all done our part this flu season by getting our annual flu shot, but did we bother to bare our arms for a pneumonia vaccine as well? “Probably not,” laments Dr. WILLIAM HOWARD of Methodist Medical Center. “since only about 10 percent of those who should get the shot ever actually do.”

In fact, says Howard, there’s a simple reason for the low turnout: Most people don’t even know that a shot exists for pneumococcal pneumonia, most often referred to as “walking pneumonia.” And that ignorance is pretty unusual since the vaccine is one of the first to have been manufactured. “It was developed in South Africa around the turn of the century and has been in the U.S. at least since 1945,” Howard says.

According to Dallas County’s chief epidemiologist, Dr. CHARLES HALEY, who has been offering the innoculation to Parkland patients since 1984, anyone over 65, especially those with chronic heart and lung disease and diabetes, is a prime candidate for the once-in-a-lifetime shot. And when he says once in a lifetime, he really means it: Side effects, Haley says, have only been registered in cases where the patient has forgotten that he has previously been innoculated.

The inexpensive shot (Parkland charges $3) can be administered at any time of the year. Best of all. Howard says, the shot has been 100 percent effective so far.

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