Current Edition Date: 10/6/2009
Pneumococcal disease is caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria. It is a leading cause of vaccine preventable illness and death in the United States. Anyone can get pneumococcal disease, but some people are at greater risk than others:
Pneumococcal disease can lead to serious infections of the:
Pneumococcal pneumonia kills about 1 out of 20 people who get it. Bacteremia kills about 1 person in 5, and meningitis about 3 people in 10.
People with the health problems described in Section 3 of this statement may be more likely to die from the disease.
Treatment of pneumococcal infections with penicillin and other drugs used to be more effective. But some strains of the disease have become resistant to these drugs. This makes prevention of the disease, through vaccination, even more important.
Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV) protects against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria, including those most likely to cause serious disease.
Most healthy adults who get the vaccine develop protection to most or all of these types within 2 to 3 weeks of getting the shot. Very old people, children under 2 years of age, and people with some long-term illnesses might not respond as well, or at all.
Another type of pneumococcal vaccine (pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, or PCV) is routinely recommended for children younger than 5 years of age. PCV is described in a separate Vaccine Information Statement.
PPSV may be less effective for some people, especially those with lower resistance to infection. But these people should still be vaccinated, because they are more likely to have serious complications if they get pneumococcal disease.
Children who often get ear infections, sinus infections, or other upper respiratory diseases, but who are otherwise healthy, do not need to get PPSV because it is not effective against those conditions.
Usually only one dose of PPSV is needed, but under some circumstances a second dose may be given.
When a second dose is given, it should be given 5 years after the first dose.
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.
A vaccine, like any medicine, could cause a serious reaction. But the risk of a vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small.
Look for anything that concerns you, such as signs of a severe allergic reaction, very high fever, or behavior changes.
Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, and weakness. These would start a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.
VAERS is only for reporting reactions. They do not give medical advice.