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Pneumococcal Disease and Adults

Pneumococcal disease is a serious infection that causes pneumonia, meningitis, and blood infection, as well as other less severe illnesses.

Pneumococcal pneumonia hospitalizes about 150,000 people in the US each year, killing about 5 percent-7 percent, or between 7,500 and 10,500 of them. The death rate is even higher among adults age 65 years and older and people with underlying health conditions.

Fewer adults get pneumococcal meningitis or bloodstream infection, but the mortality rate for these infections is higher, even with proper treatment. Pneumococcal meningitis kills about 1 in 6 older patients and blood infection kills about 1 in 8 adults who have these diseases. More than 3,000 US adults die each year from these forms of pneumococcal disease. Pneumococcal meningitis and bacteremia can also result in lifelong disability including deafness, brain damage, and limb amputation.

Adults of all ages are at increased risk for pneumococcal disease if they have any of the following conditions or risk factors:

  • Chronic conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, kidney disease, or liver disease
  • Conditions that weaken the immune system, such as sickle cell disease, HIV/AIDS, cancer, or a damaged or missing spleen
  • Cochlear implants or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaks
  • Alcoholism
  • Adults who smoke cigarettes

Who Should Be Vaccinated and Which Pneumococcal Vaccines Do They Need?

Adults age 19-64 years with any of the conditions listed above and all adults age 65 years and older who did not previously receive a conjugate pneumococcal vaccine or whose vaccination history is unknown should receive 1 dose of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (either PCV20 or PCV15).

When PCV15 is used, it should be followed by a dose of pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23). Patients should consult with their healthcare team about the vaccine timing that is right for their situation.

The CDC offers additional guidance for adults who previously received either the polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23) only and for those who received the PCV13 conjugate vaccine.

Pneumococcal Disease and Influenza

Having influenza (flu) increases the risk of getting pneumococcal disease so protection against pneumococcal disease is especially important during flu season. If both vaccines are due, they can be administered during the same healthcare visit.


Updated March 2022

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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