Pneumococcal vaccines help protect against bacterial infections caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococci). Pneumococcal infections include ear infections, sinusitis, pneumonia, bloodstream infections, and meningitis.
For more information, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Pneumococcal Conjugate (PCV13) vaccine information statement and Pneumococcal Polysaccharide vaccine information statement.
(See also Overview of Immunization.)
There are more than 90 different types of pneumococci. Vaccines are directed against many of the types most likely to cause serious disease. Two types of pneumococcal vaccines are available.
The conjugate vaccine (PCV13) is routinely recommended for
All children: Given typically at age 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, and 12 to 15 months as a part of routine childhood vaccination
All people aged 65 years and over
The conjugate vaccine is also recommended for people aged 6 to 64 who are at high risk of developing pneumococcal infections. These people include
If people were given one or more doses of the polysaccharide vaccine, doctors wait at least 1 year before giving them the conjugate vaccine.
The polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23) is routinely recommended for
If people aged 65 years and over got their first dose of polysaccharide vaccine when they were under 65 and it has been 5 or more years since the first dose, they are given a second dose, at least 5 years after the first. For example, if they were given the first dose at age 64, they are given the second dose at age 69 or later.
The polysaccharide vaccine is also recommended for people aged 2 to 64 who are at high risk of developing pneumococcal infections. These people include the following:
Groups that are listed for the conjugate vaccine (above)
Those with diabetes
Adults who smoke cigarettes
The polysaccharide vaccine is effective in about two of three adults, although it is less effective in debilitated older people. It is more effective in preventing some of the serious complications of pneumococcal pneumonia (such as meningitis and bloodstream infections) than in preventing the pneumonia itself. If people are given pneumococcal vaccine for the first time at age 65, they are given the conjugate vaccine first and the polysaccharide vaccine 1 year later.
If people have a temporary illness, doctors usually wait to give the vaccine until the illness resolves (see also CDC: Who Should NOT Get Vaccinated With These Vaccines?).