What Is Pneumococcal Disease?
Pneumococcal disease is an infection caused by bacteria. It can lead to:
It is spread by person-to-person contact.
What Is the Pneumococcal Vaccine?
There are 2 types of pneumococcal vaccines:
- Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV)—Recommended for all children younger than 5 years old, all adults aged 65 years and older, and those aged 6 years and older with certain risk factors or diseases. The PCV13 vaccine protects against 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria.
- Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV)—Recommended for certain children and adults, and all adults 65 years old and older. People aged 2-64 years with certain risk factors or diseases should also be given this vaccine. The PCV23 vaccine protects against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria.
Adults 65 years old and older may receive PCV followed by PPSV. Ask your doctor if you should receive both vaccines.
The vaccines are made from inactivated bacteria. They are given by injection under the skin or into the muscle. The goal of getting a vaccine is that later, when you are exposed to the bacteria, you will not get sick from it.
Who Should Get Vaccinated and When?
The PCV is routinely given in 4 doses at 2, 4, 6, and 12-15 months. It can also be given to children with high-risk conditions. It is also recommended for all adults aged 65 years and older.
If your child has not been vaccinated or missed a dose, talk to their doctor. Depending on your child's age, additional doses may be needed. Also, an additional dose may be needed if your child has a condition that increases the risk of severe disease.
The PPSV is given to adults aged 65 years and older.
PPSV is also given to anyone aged 2-64 years who have certain conditions, such as:
- Heart or lung disease
- Sickle cell anemia
- Alcohol use disorder
- Cerebrospinal fluid leaks
- Cochlear implants
- Hodgkin's disease
- Lymphoma or leukemia
- Kidney failure
- Multiple myeloma
- Nephrotic syndrome
- HIV or AIDS or other disease the creates a weak immune system
- Damaged spleen or no spleen
- An organ transplant
PPSV is also given to anyone aged 2-64 years who is taking a drug or treatment that lowers the body's ability to resist infection, such as:
- Long-term steroids
- Certain cancer drugs
- Radiation therapy
The vaccine should be given at least 2 weeks before cancer treatment begins.
PPSV should also be given to any adult aged 19-64 years old who:
- Is a smoker
- Has asthma
In some cases, a second dose of PPSV may be needed. For example, a second dose is recommended for people 65 and older who got their first dose before they turned 65 and it has been more than 5 years since that dose. A second dose is also recommended for people 2 through 64 who have:
- A damaged spleen or no spleen
- Sickle cell disease
- HIV infection or AIDS
- Cancer, leukemia, lymphoma, or multiple myeloma
- Nephrotic syndrome
- An organ or bone marrow transplant
- Been taking medication that lowers immunity, such as chemotherapy or long-term steroids
When a second dose is given, it should be 5 years after the first dose.
What Are the Risks Associated With the Pneumococcal Vaccine?
Generally, all vaccines have a small risk of serious problems. Side effects of PCV include:
- Redness, tenderness, or swelling at the injection site
- Loss of appetite
Acetaminophen is sometimes given to reduce pain and fever that may occur after getting a vaccine. Giving the medication at the time of the shot may weaken the vaccine's effectiveness. Discuss the risks and benefits of taking acetaminophen with the doctor.
Half of the people who get the vaccine have mild side effects. However, developing the disease is much more likely to cause serious problems than getting the vaccine. Side effects may include:
- Redness or pain at the injection site
- Muscle aches
- Severe allergic reactions—rare
Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?
Children who should not receive the vaccine are those who:
- Have had a life-threatening allergic reaction to a previous dose of PCV
- Have had a severe allergy to one of the vaccine's parts
- Are very ill
You should not receive the PPSV if you:
- Had a life-threatening allergic reaction to a previous dose of PPSV
- Had a severe allergy to one of the vaccine's components
- Are very ill
What Other Ways Can Pneumococcal Disease Be Prevented Besides Vaccination?
You can prevent pneumococcal disease if you:
- Avoid close contact with people who have infections.
- Wash your hands regularly to reduce your risk of infection.
What Happens in the Event of an Outbreak?
In the event of an outbreak, all people who are eligible for a vaccine should receive it.
- David L. Horn, MD
- Reviewed: 11/2015
- Updated: 02/08/2017
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