Preventing Pneumonia

Q: What is Pneumococcal Disease?

A: Pneumococcal disease is an infection caused by the Streptococcus pneumonia bacteria. It is an illness that is preventable with a vaccine.

Q: Are certain people at higher risk for becoming infected?

A: Certain people are at a higher risk for catching pneumonia. These people should definitely receive the vaccination. This includes:

  • People aged 65 and older
  • Very young children
  • People with certain health problems
  • Residents of nursing homes and retirement communities
  • Smokers
  • People with weakened immune systems

Q: What vaccines are available?

A: There are 2 vaccines currently available:

  • Pneumovax (PPSV23) which protects against 23 types of pneumonia bacteria.
  • Prevnar (PCV13) which protects against 13 types of pneumonia

Q: Who should get vaccinated?

A: The following groups should receive the pneumococcal vaccine:

  • All adults 65 years of age and older
  • Anyone 2 through 64 years of age who has a long term health problem such as: heart disease,lung disease, sickle cell disease, diabetes, alcoholism, cirrhosis, leaks of cerebrospinal fluid or cochlear implant
  • Anyone 2 through 64 years of age who has a disease or condition that lowers the body’s resistance to infection, such as: Hodgkin’s disease, lymphoma or leukemia, kidney failure, multiple myeloma, nephrotic syndrome, HIV infection or AIDS, damaged spleen, or no spleen, organ transplant
  • Anyone 2 through 64 years of age who is taking a drug or treatment that lowers the body’s resistance to infection, such as: long-term steroids, certain cancer drugs, radiation therapy
  • Any adult 19 through 64 years of age who: is a smoker, has asthma

Q: Which vaccine should I get?

A: ACIP, the vaccine advisory committee, recommends:

  • Adults age 65 years of age and older who have not previously received pneumococcal vaccine or whose previous pneumococcal vaccination history is unknown should receive a dose of PCV13 first, followed by a dose of PPSV23. The PPSV23 dose should be given 6 to 12 months following the PCV13 dose. If a dose of PPSV23 cannot be given in this time window, give it at the next visit. Do not administer the PCV13 and PPSV23 at the same visit.
  • Adults age 65 and older who have not received PCV13 and who have previously received one or more doses of PPSV23 should receive a dose of PCV13. The PCV13 dose should be given one year after receipt of the most recent dose of PPSV23. For those for whom an additional dose of PPSV23 is indicated, this dose should be given 6 to 12 months after PCV13 and at least 5 years after the most recent dose of PPSV23.
  • There are certain patients that also need the PCV13 vaccine. These includes patients who are immunocompromised, have sickle cell disease, are HIV positive, have leukemia or lymphoma, and those with kidney disease.

Q: Can the vaccine make me sick?

A: About half of people who get PPSV have mild side effects, such as redness or pain where the shot is given. Less than 1% develop a fever, muscle aches, or more severe local reactions. The risk of a vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small.

                   Pharmacists are here to help answer any questions you may have about the Pneumococcal vaccine. Also ask us about which vaccines are right for you!


  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pneumococcal Disease. Accessed 9/10/2014.
  • Centers for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota. Vaccine advisers recommend Prevnar (PCV13) for seniors. August 14, 2014. Accessed 9/10/2014.
  • Immunization Action Coalition. Pneumococcal Disease. Accessed 9/10/2014.

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