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Pneumococcal Disease and Adults

Why vaccinate adults against pneumococcal disease?

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

It is estimated that about one million US adults get pneumococcal pneumonia each year, as many as 400,000 hospitalizations from pneumococcal pneumonia occur annually 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. Serious heart problems are common among patients hospitalized with pneumococcal pneumonia.
  • In its worst forms, pneumococcal disease kills 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 vaccine 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 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

Did you know… pneumococcal infection can cause meningitis, pneumonia, or a bloodstream infection?

What happens when someone gets pneumococcal disease?

  • Pneumococcal disease can cause pneumonia, meningitis, or bloodstream infection.
  • 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 and older and adults with underlying medical conditions are at higher risk of death.

Why is pneumococcal vaccine important?

  • Pneumococcal disease is a potentially deadly infection that can come on very quickly.
  • Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect against this infection.

Can I get the influenza and pneumococcal vaccines 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 will tell you when to come back for it.



Reviewed December 2019

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Additional Resources

Pneumococcal Infographic

What do they all have in common? Adults living with certain chronic health conditions are all at increased risk for a serious infection called pneumococcal disease