Pneumococcal vaccines are very good at preventing severe cases of disease that could send you to the hospital. Pneumococcal diseases — such as meningitis, ear, sinus and blood infections — are common in young children, but older adults are at greatest risk of serious illness and death, particularly from pneumonia.
Getting the vaccine can protect you, and it is especially important if you are in a higher risk group. Learn more about pneumococcal disease and the difference the vaccine can make.
Pneumococcal (pronounced “noo-mo-kok-kol”) disease is caused by bacteria that can spread from person to person by close contact. It can cause ear infections, and it can also lead to more serious infections of the lungs, blood, and brain and spinal cord.
Anyone can get pneumococcal disease, but children under 2 years of age, people with certain medical conditions, adults over 65 years of age, and cigarette smokers are at the highest risk. About 18,000 older adults each year die from pneumococcal disease in the United States.
All children younger than 2 years and all adults 65 years and older should get vaccinated against pneumococcal disease. People between the ages of 2 to 64 with certain medical conditions (such as high blood sugar or anyone with heart, liver, kidney, and lung diseases) and people who smoke cigarettes should also be vaccinated.
There are currently two shots that protect against pneumococcal disease: Pneumovax (PPSV23) and Prevnar (PCV13). One, two, or three doses are recommended, depending on your age and health. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist to see what is best for you.
You can get your pneumococcal shots at your local pharmacy or your doctor’s office.
There is no co-pay for the pneumococcal shots if you get your pneumococcal shots at your local pharmacy. If you get your shots at your doctor’s office, you may have an office visit co-pay.
Pneumococcal shots work well, but cannot prevent all cases.
Side effects are not common, but the shot can cause soreness, redness, and/or swelling. It can also cause fever or fainting.
People who have severe, life-threatening allergies to a pneumococcal shot or any ingredient in the shot should not get the pneumococcal shot. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about your allergy.
Also, if you are not feeling well, it is recommended to wait until you are better before getting the pneumococcal shot.