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Pneumococcal Disease and Adults

Why vaccinate adults against pneumococcal disease?

Pneumococcal (noo-muh-kok-ul) disease is a serious infection that causes pneumonia, meningitis, and bloodstream infection (sepsis).

It is estimated that more than 150,000 hospitalizations from pneumococcal pneumonia occur annually among adults in the US, and about 5-7% of those who are hospitalized from it will die. The death rate is even higher in those age 65 years and older. Fewer people will get pneumococcal meningitis or bloodstream infection, but the mortality rate for these infections is higher (10% or more).

  • In the US, pneumococcal pneumonia, meningitis, and bloodstream infections kill tens of thousands each year
  • Pneumococcal disease can cause serious illness and lifelong complications
    • Pneumococcal meningitis can cause long-term hearing loss, seizures, blindness, and paralysis
    • Patients who are hospitalized from pneumococcal pneumonia may take weeks to months to recover, and may require admission to a rehabilitation or long-term care facility
  • Pneumococcal disease can kill 1 in every 4 to 5 adults over the age of 65 who contract the disease

Which adults need pneumococcal vaccination?

There are two types of pneumococcal vaccines recommended for adults: a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) and a pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23).

PCV13 and PPSV23

  • All adults age 65 years and older should talk to a healthcare professional about whether they need one pneumococcal vaccine or both
  • Adults age 19-64 years with any of the following should receive PCV13 followed by PPSV23 later:
    • 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
  • All adults age 65 years and older

What happens when someone gets pneumococcal disease?

  • Pneumococcal disease can cause serious diseases such as pneumonia, meningitis, or bloodstream infection (sepsis)
  • People with pneumococcal disease may have a combination of high fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, stiff neck, disorientation, and sensitivity to light
  • Among those who get pneumococcal disease, those age 65 years and older and adults with underlying medical conditions are at higher risk of death

Why is pneumococcal vaccination important?

  • Pneumococcal disease is a potentially deadly infection that can come on very quickly
  • Getting vaccinated as recommended is the best way to protect against serious forms of pneumococcal disease

Can I get an influenza and pneumococcal vaccine at the same time?

Yes. Influenza (flu) and one pneumococcal vaccine can be given at the same time, but in different arms. In fact, pneumococcal disease can be a complication of flu, so getting both vaccines is a smart choice. If you need a second pneumococcal vaccine, your healthcare professional can tell you when to return for the second vaccine.


Reviewed September 2020

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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