The pneumococcal vaccine prevents serious blood, brain, and lung infections from the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria. Such infections are called pneumococcal disease -- they also include pneumonia, meningitis, and septicemia.
Pneumococcal disease is a serious health threat that can lead to death. Many strains of Streptococcus pneumonia are resistant to antibiotics. Infection with the bacteria is a leading cause of serious illness in adults and children worldwide. In the U.S. alone, more people die from pneumococcal disease each year than all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined.
Did You Know?
Under the Affordable Care Act, many health insurance plans will cover preventive care services, including checkups, vaccinations and screening tests, at no cost to you. Learn more.
Vaccination is the best way to prevent pneumococcal disease. There are two different types of pneumococcal vaccine. One that protects adults against 23 strains of Streptococcus pneumonia bacteria is called pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23), and it is marketed under the brand name Pneumovax. PPSV23 is made using dead bacteria. The dead germs cannot make you sick.
The other is pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, PCV13 (brand name Prevnar 13), which is routinely given to infants and toddlers, but was approved by the FDA in 2011 for use in adults 50 and older.
When Should Adults Get a Pneumococcal Vaccine?
The pneumococcal vaccine can be given at any time of the year. The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23) is recommended for the following adults:
Adults 19 to 64 years old with certain medical conditions (for example, certain kidney diseases, cigarette smoking, asthma, chronic heart or lung disease, asplenia, and conditions that cause weakening of the immune system) should receive one or two doses of PPSV23 given five years apart.
The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) is recommended for the following adults:
Adults 19 and older with asplenia, sickle cell disease, cerebrospinal fluid leaks, cochlear implants, or conditions that cause weakening of the immune system.
It's now recommended that adults age 65 and older get both vaccines. Adults who are recommended to get both the PPSV23 and the PCV13 vaccines should get the PCV13 vaccine first, followed by PPSV23 8 weeks later. If an adult was already vaccinated with PPSV23, he or she should receive the PCV13 vaccine 1 year or more later.