Pneumococcal Disease

Why vaccinate adults against pneumococcal disease?

  • Pneumococcal disease is a very serious infection that causes pneumonia, meningitis, and bloodstream infection (sepsis).
  • It is estimated that about one million US adults get pneumococcal pneumonia each year, as many as 400,000 hospitalizations from pneumococcal pneumonia occur annually in the US, and about 5-7% of those who are hospitalized from it will die. The death rate is even higher in those age 65 years and older. Fewer people will get pneumococcal meningitis or bloodstream infection, but the mortality rate for these infections is higher (10 percent or more). 
  • In the US, pneumococcal pneumonia, meningitis, and bloodstream infections kill tens of thousands each year. 
  • Pneumococcal disease can cause serious illness and lifelong complications. Pneumococcal meningitis can cause hearing loss, seizures, blindness, and paralysis. Serious heart problems are common among patients hospitalized with pneumococcal pneumonia.
  • In its worst forms, pneumococcal disease kills one in every four to five adults over the age of 65 who contract the disease.

Which adults need pneumococcal vaccination?

There are two types of pneumococcal vaccine recommended for adults: a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) and a pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23).

CDC recommends both PCV13 and PPSV23 for* 
  • All adults age 65 years and older
  • Adults age 19 to 64 years with:
    • Conditions or treatments that affect the immune system (such as: HIV, lymphoma, leukemia, or Hodgkin disease, chronic kidney disease, radiation therapy, or certain long-term steroid use† 
    • Functional or anatomic asplenia†
    • Cochlear implants or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaks

 *PCV13 and PPSV23 cannot be given at the same visit. Your healthcare professional can tell you which vaccines you need and the timing that is right for you.

†A second PPSV23 vaccine is recommended for these persons five years after the first PPSV23.

CDC recommends only PPSV23 for the following adults age 19 to 64 years:
  • Those with chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, lung, heart, or liver disease, or alcoholism 
  • Cigarette smokers 
  • Residents of nursing homes or other long-term care facilities

These individuals should receive a dose of PCV13 when they reach age 65 and should consult with their healthcare provider.

Did you know...
pneumococcal disease can cause meningitis, pneumonia, or a bloodstream infection?
What happens when someone gets pneumococcal disease?
  • Pneumococcal disease can cause pneumonia, meningitis, or bloodstream infection.
  • People with pneumococcal disease may have a combination of high fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, stiff neck, disorientation, and sensitivity to light.
  • Among those who get pneumococcal disease, those age 65 and older and adults with underlying medical conditions are at higher risk of death

Why is pneumococcal vaccine important?

  • Pneumococcal disease is a potentially deadly infection that can come on very quickly.
  • Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect against this infection.
  • Health officials updated pneumococcal vaccine recommendations in 2013 and 2014, so even people who have been vaccinated before are urged to check with their healthcare professional to see if they need an additional vaccination to stay protected.

FAQ: Can I get the influenza and pneumococcal vaccines at the same time?

Yes. Influenza and one pneumococcal vaccine can be given at the same time, but in different arms. In fact, pneumococcal disease can be a complication of influenza, so getting both vaccines is a smart choice. If you need a second pneumococcal vaccine, your healthcare professional will tell you when to come back for it.


Fact Sheets for At-Risk Adults

At-a-glance patient fact sheets for those with asthma, diabetes, heart, liver, lung, and kidney disease, HIV/AIDS, and smokers as well as those with certain medical conditions

Facts about Pneumococcal Disease for Adults

Pneumococcal Disease Public Service Announcement

Learn about the burden of pneumococcal disease in the US and the importance of being fully vaccinated to help prevent the disease [2016]

Pneumococcal Disease Radio Public Service Announcement

National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID): 2012 Radio Public Service Announcement (30 seconds)

Pneumococcal Vaccination

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Pneumococcal Vaccination Recommendations by Age and/or Risk Factors

Immunization Action Coalition (IAC): Vaccination recommendations for those wtih underlying medical conditions or other risk factors

Real Stories, Real People: Helping a Friend Fight Pneumococcal Disease

Linda’s Story

What You Need To Know About COPD, Asthma, and Adult Vaccines

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)