Pneumococcal Disease and Vaccine

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Pneumococcal Disease

What is pneumococcal disease?

Pneumococcal disease is an infection caused by bacteria known as pneumococcus (Streptococcus pneumoniae). The most common infections from this bacteria are lung infection (pneumonia), bloodstream infection (bacteremia), and swelling of the covering of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis).

Pneumococcus bacteria is spread by an infected person coughing or sneezing.

Read more about pneumococcal disease and how it affects people on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

What are the symptoms of pneumococcal disease?

Symptoms depend on the part of the body that is infected. Symptoms for the three most common pneumococcal infections are listed below.

In pneumococcal pneumonia, symptoms include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Cough
  • Rapid breathing or difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain

In pneumococcal meningitis, symptoms include:

  • Stiff neck
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Eye sensitivity to light (photophobia)
  • Confusion

In pneumococcal bacteremia, symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Low alertness

Who is at risk?

Children younger than 5 and adults 65 years and older are at higher risk.

Alaska Native, African American, and certain American Indian people are at higher risk of pneumococcal disease. Experts don’t know why these racial and ethnic groups have higher rates.

Certain conditions and factors increase a person’s risk. These are:

  • Alcoholism
  • Brain and spinal cord fluid leak
  • Chronic heart, kidney, liver, or lung disease
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Surgically implanted hearing devices called cochlear implants
  • Diabetes
  • Immunocompromised conditions

Limit the spread of pneumococcal disease

Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent pneumococcal disease. There are two approved pneumococcal vaccine types in the United States. Additionally, getting the flu vaccine every year reduces the chance of getting pneumococcal disease.

Practice proper hygiene:

  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Clean and disinfect commonly used surfaces such as doorknobs.
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue, your elbow, or a sleeve.

Avoid people who are sick. If necessary:

  • Limit contact.
  • Avoid the sick person’s saliva or mucus, including drinking glasses and tissues.
  • Wear a mask.
  • Wash your hands after interactions with a sick person.

Pneumococcal Vaccination

The United States uses two different types of pneumococcal vaccines to help protect against pneumococcal disease:

  • Pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCV13, PCV15, or PCV20)
  • Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23)

These vaccines protect against many, but not all types of pneumococcal bacteria.

When do people get pneumococcal vaccine?

For children:

  • Children younger than 5 years old should get PCV15 or PCV20.
  • Children 2 through 18 years old with certain medical conditions should get PCV20 or PPSV23.

For adults who haven’t been vaccinated for pneumococcal disease before:

  • Adults 65 years and older should receive PCV15 or PCV20.
  • Adults 19 through 64 years of age and have certain medical conditions should receive PCV15 or PCV20.
  • Adults receiving PCV15 should receive a follow-up dose of PPSV23.

For adults who already received a pneumococcal vaccine:

  • Adults 65 years and older who previously received PCV13 or PPSV23 should talk to their doctor to decide if they should get PCV20.

What are the side effects of pneumococcal vaccine?

Most people do not have serious problems with pneumococcal vaccine. The most common side effects of PCV13, PCV15, and PCV20 vaccines include:

  • Redness, swelling, pain or tenderness where the shot was given
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability
  • Feeling tired
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches or joint pain
  • Chills

Common side effects of PPSV23 vaccine include:

  • Redness or pain where the shot was given
  • Feeling tired
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches

If these problems occur, they usually go away within about 2 days.

Why is pneumococcal vaccine important?

Getting pneumococcal vaccine is effective at preventing the disease. Some types of pneumococcal disease can be very serious, and getting sick does not prevent you from getting pneumococcal disease again.

Pneumococcal disease can be very deadly.

  • Pneumococcal pneumonia kills 1 in 20 who get it.
  • Pneumococcal meningitis kills 1 in 12 children and 1 in 6 adults who get it.
  • Pneumococcal bacteremia kills 1 in 30 children and 1 in 8 adults who get it.

Since the introduction of pneumococcal vaccine in 1998, invasive pneumococcal disease has decreased by 95% in children under 5 years of age.

Vaccine Information Statements and Resources

The Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) is given to people at the time of vaccination. It explains the benefits and risks of the specific vaccination.

  • Read the current PCV VIS from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • Read the current PPSV23 VIS from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Additional Resources for the Public

Additional Resources for Health Care Providers

Childhood Vaccine Program

The Washington State Childhood Vaccination Program provides vaccines to children 18 years of age and younger at no cost. Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) is included in this program.

Pneumococcal Vaccine Requirement for Schools

Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) is required for child care and school entry in the state of Washington. Learn more about school and child care immunization requirements by visiting the family friendly school immunization requirements web page.