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Pneumococcal Vaccines

Pneumococcus is a type of bacteria that can cause several severe infections, including pneumonia, meningitis, and blood infections (sepsis). These infections can be serious and even life-threatening, especially in people with impaired immune systems, older adults, and children younger than 2 years of age.

Even if you have had pneumonia in the past, you will need a pneumococcal vaccine to help protect you against another pneumococcal infection.

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Doctors use two types of pneumococcal vaccines for routine immunization: pneumococcal conjugate (PCV) or pneumococcal polysaccharide (PPSV).

Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13)

Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine is recommended for all infants and toddlers. It is also recommended for adults 19 and older who have immune system problems, cerebrospinal fluid leaks, cochlear implants, no spleen, or a damaged spleen.

Children who are vaccinated when they are infants will be protected when they are at greatest risk for serious disease.

Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV)

This vaccine is recommended for all adults 65 years of age or older and for all adults who smoke cigarettes. It's also recommended for people ages 2 years or older who have certain health problems.

The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV) protects against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria. Most healthy adults who get the vaccine develop protection to most or all of these types within 2 to 3 weeks of getting the shot. Older adults and people with some long-term illnesses might not respond as well or at all. But these people should still be vaccinated, because they are more likely to get seriously ill from pneumococcal disease.

Some adults need both PCV and PPSV vaccines.

Pregnancy: There is no evidence that the vaccine is harmful to either the mother or the fetus, but pregnant women should consult with their doctors before being vaccinated. Women who are at high risk of pneumococcal disease should be vaccinated before becoming pregnant, if possible.

For more information about these and other vaccines, go to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control website at www.cdc.gov/vaccines.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer R. Steven Tharratt, MD, MPVM, FACP, FCCP - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine, Medical Toxicology
Last Revised March 6, 2013

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 06, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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