What is pneumococcal disease?
Pneumococcal (noo-muh-kok-ul) disease is an infection caused by a type of bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae. Pneumococcal disease can cause pneumonia, bloodstream infection (sepsis), or meningitis. The bacteria spread through coughing or sneezing, or through direct contact such as kissing. Pneumococcal infection kills tens of thousands of people in the US each year. Older people are most likely to die from pneumococcal disease, but younger adults with certain health conditions are also at increased risk for severe illness and death.
Pneumococcal disease can come on quickly and without warning and the symptoms are not the same for everyone. Depending on whether the infection causes pneumonia, bloodstream infection, or meningitis, people may have some combination of the following: abrupt onset of fever, shaking/chills, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, stiff neck, disorientation, and sensitivity to light.
There are two safe and effective vaccines recommended to protect adults against pneumococcal disease; a pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23) and a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13).
Who should be vaccinated against pneumococcal disease?
PCV13 and PPSV23
- All adults age 65 years and older should talk to a healthcare professional about which vaccines they need
- Adults age 19-64 years with any of the following:
- Conditions that weaken the immune system, such as chronic kidney disease, HIV/AIDS, lymphoma, leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, damaged/absent spleen; on steroids or other immunosuppressive therapy
- Cochlear implants or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaks
- Adults age 19-64 years with any of the following conditions: asthma; diabetes; lung, heart, or liver disease; or alcoholism
- Adults age 19-64 years who smoke cigarettes
- Adults age 19-64 years who reside in chronic-care or long-term care facilities
- All adults age 65 years and older
Pneumococcal vaccines are also recommended for children.
Pneumococcal vaccination is safe and effective in preventing illness and death due to pneumococcal disease. Some people experience mild side effects, but these are usually minor and last only a short time. When side effects do occur, the most common include swelling and soreness at the injection site. A few people experience fever and muscle pain. As with any medicine, there are very small risks that serious problems could occur after getting the vaccine. However, the potential risks associated with pneumococcal disease are much greater than the potential risks associated with pneumococcal vaccination. You cannot get pneumococcal disease from vaccination.
Facts about pneumococcal disease and vaccines
- FACT: Pneumococcal vaccine can be given at any time during the year.
- FACT: One pneumococcal vaccine can be given at the same time as influenza vaccine, but in the opposite arm. If you need a second pneumococcal vaccine, your healthcare professional can tell you when to come back for it.
- FACT: In the US, pneumococcal pneumonia, meningitis, and bloodstream infections kill tens of thousands of people each year, including 18,000 adults age 65 years and older.
- FACT: Heart problems are common in people hospitalized because of pneumococcal pneumonia.
- FACT: One pneumococcal vaccination is fully paid for by Medicare Part B (no copayment and no deductible) if the healthcare professional accepts the Medicare-approved payment.
- FACT: You cannot get pneumococcal disease from vaccination.
Learn about pneumococcal disease, its symptoms, and prevention
What you should know about pneumococcal disease
Pneumococcal disease is serious and deadly