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 Let’s talk health with Dr. Neutze: Pneumonia Vaccines for 65+

Every year, pneumonia kills thousands of adults, and leads to many more hospitalizations. Pneumonia is an infection caused by a certain type of bacteria—it can range in severity, from a cough and a fever to a blood infection (call bacteremia), and meningitis (an inflammation around the brain).

Pneumonia is especially dangerous for adults 65 and older, and for adults with chronic conditions or weakened immune systems. These illnesses can lead to disabilities like deafness, brain damage, or loss of limbs. In very severe cases, pneumonia can be life threatening.

Thankfully, there are two vaccines available that together help protect against pneumonia and other pneumococcal infections, which are PCV13 and PPSV23. These vaccines have been shown to be effective in limiting the severity of pneumonia infections

Why do I have to get two vaccines? Why not just one?

The two vaccines, PCV13 and PPSV23 are given twelve months apart. As their names indicate, the first protects against 13 strains, and the second protects against many more. The two vaccines work in different ways, which means additional protection against infection. This is especially important for older adults, where the risk of pneumonia is 10 times that of younger adults. So, yes, if you’re 65 or older you do need both!

Is the vaccine safe? Will I get sick?

Both pneumococcal vaccines are safe, in addition to being very effective at reducing the severity of pneumonia. Vaccines can have mild side effects, lasting a day or two. The most common side effects include: feeling drowsy, loss of appetite, sore arm from the shot, fever, and headache. Occasionally, vaccines can cause more serious side effects, but it is rare. These side effects are nothing compared to the risk of a serious pneumococcal infection, but if you have specific concerns, talk to your provider.

I am younger than 65, but have a chronic condition— how do I know if I need the vaccines

Some individuals who have chronic conditions, such as COPD, asthma, HIV, or diabetes, may also be at an increased risk of pneumococcal infection. Risk varies with condition, as do vaccine recommendations, so if you have a chronic condition, talk to your doctor.

Get your flu shot

Getting the flu shot can save you a visit to Urgent Care, or, for some, even a visit to the hospital. Don’t waste time this season sitting on the bleachers; you can get your flu shot at Family Medicine. Make an appointment online at or by calling us at 984-974-0210

If you don’t have a visit scheduled with your provider you can still make an appointment to see one of our friendly MAs who would be happy to give you a flu shot. This service is available Monday-Friday 9AM – 4PM. Make an appointment by calling the phone number listed above.

November is COPD awareness month

Chances are high that you know someone with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). More than 16 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD and it is estimated that millions more have the disease without realizing it. By far, the greatest risk factor for developing COPD is smoking cigarettes or other tobacco products.

 This November for National COPD Awareness Month, join UNC Family Medicine and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) on a COPD Journey from learning more to breathing better.

What is COPD? 

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as emphysema or chronic bronchitis, is a serious lung disease that over time makes it hard to breathe. The symptoms of COPD are shortness of breath, chronic coughing and wheezing. These symptoms often come on gradually, making it difficult to pinpoint that something is wrong. After all, it is easy to mistake breathing issues as “just getting older” or being out of shape. For that reason, COPD is often underdiagnosed.

Don’t delay.

The sooner you understand and recognize COPD, the earlier you can receive help to improve your quality of life.  If you are a smoker and are experiencing chronic coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, and general difficulty with your lungs, talk to your doctor. Left untreated, COPD causes difficulty performing daily activities and make can make it difficult to work.

The good news

The good news is that with proper diagnosis, COPD can be treated to improve your symptoms. It can be diagnosed by a doctor or health care provider during a scheduled visit with a simple breathing test called spirometry. While there is no cure for COPD, with early diagnosis and treatment, people with COPD can alleviate their symptoms and begin to get back to the things they love doing. By learning more about COPD, recognizing the symptoms and talking with a health care provider, people with COPD can take the first step to breathing better.

More good news? Stopping smoking can substantially reduce COPD symptoms.


The number one way to prevent COPD is to stop smoking, or if you don’t smoke, don’t start.  If you need help quitting, we have resources for that. Check out our Tobacco Treatment Program online here. [ Link: ]

For more information about COPD, visit the NHLBI’s COPD Learn More Breathe Better® program at

Meet our new Medical Director, Amir Barzin, DO, MS

Please welcome our new Medical Director of The UNC Family Medicine Center at Chapel Hill, Dr. Amir Barzin.

As a faculty member, Dr. Barzin has served as the Director of the Family Medicine Inpatient Service, helped establish the Observation Unit in the hospital, and is the Medical Director for the UNC Urgent Care at the Family Medicine Center.  In these leadership roles, Amir has had the opportunity to work with healthcare leadership and department leadership in crafting a model of care that includes the principles of family medicine.  In this new role as the Medical Director of the Family Medicine Center, he hopes to continue the great work begun by his predecessors and lead the department through exciting changes and growth.  

About Dr. Barzin

 “I have always had an interest in serving others and being involved in my community,” says Dr. Barzin. “As a physician, I have the opportunity to work with families and their loved ones to improve their wellbeing, provide support and be an advocate for them. I approach every patient interaction with the fundamentals of my osteopathic training in mind, and look at how the mind, body, and soul impact one’s health. Outside of work, I can frequently be found running around the streets of Chapel Hill and enjoying UNC athletics. My wife and I enjoy traveling, trying new food and spending time with our dog.”

Barzin completed medical school at University of North Texas Health Science Center and then completed his residency in Family Medicine at UNC Family Medicine. After doing a Chief Resident Fellowship, he remained with the department.