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Pneumococcal Vaccine

Pneumococcal vaccines are the best way to prevent pneumococcal disease. They are safe and effective. The vaccines are given as shots (injections). This can be done at your healthcare provider's office or a health clinic. Pharmacies, senior centers, and workplaces often offer vaccinations, too. Your healthcare provider can help you know which vaccine is best for you.

Two types of vaccines protect against pneumococcal disease:

  • PCV13 (pneumococcal conjugate vaccine)

  • PPSV23 (pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine)

What is pneumococcal disease?

Pneumococcal disease is caused by bacteria (Streptococcus pneumoniae). This germ is easily spread when someone with the bacteria coughs, sneezes, laughs, or talks. You can get pneumococcal disease more than once. This is because there are many different types (strains) of the bacteria. Some strains are also resistant to treatment with antibiotics.

There are different kinds of pneumococcal disease, depending on what part of the body is infected. They include:

  • Pneumonia. Infection in the lungs.

  • Meningitis. Infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord.

  • Otitis media. Infection of the middle ear.

  • Bacteremia or septicemia. Infection in the blood.

Pneumococcal disease can be life-threatening, especially for people in high-risk groups. Each year, thousands of people die from this disease. Thousands more become seriously ill.

Who should get the vaccine?

Healthcare provider giving injection in woman's upper arm.

The pneumococcal vaccine is advised for young children, older adults, and certain other people.

PCV13 is recommended for:

  • All children younger than 2 years old. A 4-dose series of PCV13 is recommended at 2, 4, 6, and 12 to 15 months of age.

  • People age 2 years and older with certain health conditions

Healthy people 65 years and older who haven't gotten PCV13 before may also get it after talking with their healthcare provider.

PPSV23 is recommended for:

  • All adults age 65 and older

  • People ages 2 through 64 years old with certain health conditions

  • Adults 19 years and older who smoke cigarettes

Some people need multiple or booster doses of pneumococcal vaccine. Talk with your provider about your situation and which vaccine is advised.

Online Medical Reviewer: Barry Zingman MD
Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2021
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