Pneumococcal Vaccination

There are 2 pneumococcal vaccinations that protect people against pneumococcal disease.

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 of this disease. Thousands more become seriously ill.

The vaccine

Healthcare provider giving injection in woman's upper arm.

The pneumococcal vaccines are the best way to avoid 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. Drugstores, senior centers, and workplaces often offer vaccinations, too. If you have questions, ask your healthcare provider.

The pneumococcal vaccines are recommended for:

  • Persons 65 and older

  • Infants

  • People with chronic health problems (such as diabetes, chronic lung or heart disease, liver disease)

  • People who have a cochlear implant

  • People who have weakened immune systems

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

  • People who smoke or have asthma

They are given:

  • In a 4-dose series in infants

  • One time in adults; some people need a second dose of one of the vaccines

Your healthcare provider can tell you more about the vaccines, whether you should get them, and the number of shots you should get.

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