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Pneumococcal Vaccination: What To Know


While there’s a good chance you’re not familiar with the name, Streptococcus pneumoniae, or pneumococcus, it is a type of bacteria responsible for causing many types of illnesses. Pneumonia is the most common form of the disease affecting about one million Americans each year resulting in 400,000 hospital admissions and 70,000 deaths. Some people are at a higher risk for getting pneumococcal disease due to smoking, a weakened immune system and chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, COPD, emphysema or alcoholism. Pneumococcal bacteria are spread from person-to-person through coughing, sneezing or direct contact such as kissing.

Thankfully, vaccines exist that help defend against the bacteria (and disease)—and yet, an estimated 80% of adults with conditions that put them at increased risk, and 40% of adults 65 and older, remain unvaccinated and vulnerable.

Pneumococcal vaccination is the safest, most effective way to protect ourselves from the many forms of this disease.

Who Needs the Pneumococcal Vaccine?

1. All infants and children under 2 years of age.

2. All adults aged 65 and older.

3. People aged 2 through 64 who are at an increased risk due to certain medical conditions.

Some people should not get certain vaccines due to age, health conditions and other factors. Your doctor can help you decide if the pneumococcal vaccine is right for you; make sure to tell them if you (or your child) have had a severe reaction or allergy to a previous pneumococcal vaccine, are not feeling well or if you are pregnant.

The Types of Pneumococcal Vaccines

There are two types of vaccines licensed for use in the U.S. by the FDA.

1. Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV13 or Prevnar 13). This vaccine is given in a three-dose primary series to infants starting at two months of age, plus one booster dose at 12 through 15 months of age. Children who begin vaccination after 6 months of age will receive fewer doses. Adults receive it as a single dose. The vaccine helps protect against the 13 most common types of pneumococcal bacteria that cause serious infections in children and adults.

2. Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine (PPSV23 or Pneumovax23). This vaccine is given in a single dose; one or two booster doses may be recommended to some people. This vaccine helps protect against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria. Children under two should not get this type of vaccine.

How Effective is the Vaccine?

At least one dose of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13 or Prevnar 13) protects:

1. At least 8 out of 10 babies from invasive pneumococcal disease.

2. 75 out of 100 adults 65 years or older from invasive pneumococcal disease.

3. 45 out of 100 adults 65 years or older from pneumococcal pneumonia.

And one dose of pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23 or Pneumovax23) protects:

1. Between 50 to 85 out of 100 healthy adults against invasive pneumococcal disease.

Schedule Your Pneumococcal Vaccination Today

Contact your doctor, health department or pharmacy to schedule a vaccination appointment to determine which vaccine is right for you. Medicare Part B covers 100% of the cost for pneumococcal vaccines when administered 12 months apart and most private health insurance plans cover pneumonia vaccines as well. Check with your insurance provider for further details.