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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
Pneumococcal disease (noo-muh-KOK-uhl) causes thousands of infections every year in the United States. It’s more common in children, but it’s most likely to cause serious complications in adults. The good news is that pneumococcal vaccines can help prevent the disease.
There are 2 types of pneumococcal vaccines:
- The PCV13 vaccine for infants, older adults, and people with certain health conditions
- The PPSV23 vaccine for children and adults age 2 and older, older adults, people with certain health conditions, and adults ages 19 through 64 who smoke
Pneumococcal disease is contagious, meaning it spreads from person to person. It can lead to different kinds of health problems — including serious infections in the lungs, lining of the brain and spinal cord, and blood.
Pneumococcal disease is especially dangerous for babies, older adults, and people with certain health conditions.
Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent pneumococcal disease.
Pneumococcal disease is caused by a type of bacteria. Some people get the germs that cause pneumococcal disease, but don’t get sick — these people are called “carriers.” But others may get ear infections and sinus infections. And sometimes, pneumococcal disease can lead to serious infections like:
- Pneumonia (lung infection)
- Meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord)
- Bacteremia (infection of the bloodstream)
Pneumonia can lead to symptoms like:
- Fever and chills
- Chest pain
Meningitis can cause symptoms like:
- Stiff neck
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Feeling confused
- Not wanting to eat or drink, being less active than usual, and throwing up (in babies)
Bacteremia can cause symptoms like:
Pneumococcal bacteria spread through droplets in the air — like when someone who has the bacteria in their nose or throat coughs or sneezes. Learn more about pneumococcal disease.
All infants, young children, and adults age 65 and older need to get the pneumococcal vaccine.
Pneumococcal vaccines are also recommended for people who:
- Have long-term health conditions, like heart disease or asthma
- Have weakened immune systems
- Smoke cigarettes
The PCV13 vaccine is recommended for:
- All adults age 65 and older (1 dose)
- All children younger than 2 years (4 doses)
- Young children and adults ages 2 through 64 years who have certain health conditions (doses may vary)
The PPSV23 vaccine is recommended for:
- All adults age 65 and older (1 dose)
- Children and adults ages 2 through 64 years who have certain health conditions, including a weakened immune system (1 dose)
- Adults ages 19 through 64 who smoke cigarettes (doses may vary)
Talk with your doctor about how to protect your family from pneumococcal disease.
You should not get a pneumococcal vaccine if you have had a life-threatening allergic reaction to that particular pneumococcal vaccine or any ingredient in it.
Be sure to tell your doctor before getting vaccinated if you:
- Have serious allergies of any kind
- Are pregnant
If you’re sick, you may need to wait until you’re feeling better to get a pneumococcal vaccine.
Side effects from pneumococcal vaccines are usually mild and go away in a few days.
In adults, side effects of the PCV13 vaccine may include:
- Pain, swelling, or redness where the shot was given
- Not feeling hungry
- Feeling tired
Side effects in children may include:
- Redness or swelling where the shot was given
- Not wanting to eat
- Mild fever
Young children who get the PCV13 vaccine at the same time as the flu shot could be at increased risk for seizures (sudden, unusual movements or behavior) caused by fever.
Side effects of the PPSV23 vaccine may include:
- Pain or redness where the shot was given
- Muscle aches
Like any medicine, there’s a very small chance that pneumococcal vaccines could cause a serious reaction. Keep in mind that getting a pneumococcal vaccine is much safer than getting pneumococcal disease. Learn more about vaccine side effects.
Vaccine Information Statements (VISs) have detailed information about recommended vaccines. Read the VISs for vaccines that protect against pneumococcal disease:
Last reviewed: January 2018