Pneumococcal Vaccine

Pneumococcal disease

Healthcare provider giving woman injection in arm.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 this disease more than once. This is because there are many types (strains) of the bacteria. Some strains are also resistant to treatment with antibiotics.

There are different kinds of pneumococcal disease. What kind you have depends on what part of the body is infected. They include:

  • Pneumonia. This is an infection in the lungs.

  • Meningitis. This is an infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord.

  • Otitis media. This is an infection of the middle ear.

  • Bacteremia or septicemia. This is an infection in the blood.

Anyone can get pneumococcal disease, but it can be life-threatening for people in high-risk groups. Thousands of people die from this disease each year. Thousands more become seriously ill.

The vaccine

Those at high risk for pneumococcal disease include:

  • People 65 and older

  • Infants younger than 2 years

  • People with long-term (chronic) health problems such as diabetes, lung or heart disease, liver disease, sickle cell disease, or alcoholism

  • People who have a cochlear implant

  • People who have a weakened immune system from cancer, HIV, or medicines

  • People who live in nursing homes or other long-term-care facilities

  • People who smoke or have asthma 

For people at risk, the pneumococcal vaccines are the best way to keep from getting the disease. The vaccine comes in two types. The vaccine that’s right for you depends on your risk factors and your age. Both vaccines are safe and work well Talk with your healthcare provider about which vaccine is best for you and when you should get it. The vaccines are given as shots (injections). This can be done at your healthcare provider's office or a health clinic. Drugstores, senior centers, and workplaces also often offer vaccines. Ask your healthcare provider if you have questions.

They are given as follows, or as directed by your healthcare provider:

  • Infants to children younger than 2 years. The CDC recommends a 4-dose series given 2 to several months apart.  

  • Ages 2 to 64 years diagnosed with certain health conditions.

  • Adults 19 to 64 years who are cigarette smokers or who have certain health conditions. Your healthcare provider will tell you the number of doses you need based on your health condition.

  • Adults 65 years and older. If you have never had a pneumococcal vaccine or don’t know if you have had a vaccine, you may need 2 vaccinations a year apart. If you had a vaccination before you were 65 years old, ask your healthcare provider to tell you the number of doses you need and when you should have them.