Pneumonia (Pneumococcal) Vaccine

What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a lung disease that can infect the upper respiratory tract and can spread to the blood, lungs, middle ear or nervous system. Pneumonia is a leading cause of vaccine-preventable illness and death in the United States. Pneumococcal pneumonia mainly causes illnesses in children younger than 2 years of age and adults 65 years of age or older. The elderly are especially at risk of getting seriously ill and dying from this disease. Also, people with certain medical conditions such as chronic heart, lung, or liver diseases or sickle cell anemia are at increased risk for getting pneumococcal pneumonia.

What is the pneumonia vaccine?

The pneumonia (pneumococcal) polysaccharide vaccine protects against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria, including those most likely to cause serious disease. Usually only one dose of pneumonia is needed, but under some circumstances additional doses may be recommended.

A second dose is recommended for people 65 and older who got their first dose when they were younger than 65.

A second dose is recommended for people 2 through 64 years of age who:

  • Have a damaged spleen or no spleen
  • Have sickle-cell disease
  • Have HIV infection or AIDS
  • Have cancer, leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma
  • Have kidney disease
  • Have had an organ or bone marrow transplant
  • Are taking medication that lowers immunity (such as chemotherapy or long-term steroids

In both cases, the second dose should be given five years after the first dose.

Who should get the pneumonia vaccine?

  • All adults ages 65+ who have not previously been vaccinated
  • Adults ages 19-64 who smoke or have asthma
  • Anyone ages 2-64 who has a long-term health problem such as heart or lung disease, diabetes, sickle cell disease, alcoholism, cirrhosis, leaks of cerebrospinal fluid or cochlear implant.
  • Anyone ages 2-64 who has a disease or condition that lower 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, or organ transplant.
  • Anyone ages 2-64 who is taking a drug or treatment that lowers the body's resistance to infection, such as long-term steroids, certain cancer drugs, or radiation therapy.

Who should not get the pneumonia vaccine?

Anyone who has ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to pneumonia or to any component of the vaccine should not get another dose. Tell your provider if you have any severe allergies.

Anyone who is moderately or severely ill should probably wait until they recover before getting the vaccine.

Pregnant women should consult with their OB/GYN before getting vaccinated. While there is no evidence that pneumonia is harmful to either a pregnant woman or to her fetus, as a precaution, women with conditions that put them at risk for pneumococcal disease should be vaccinated before becoming pregnant, if possible.

What are the side effects of the pneumonia vaccine?

Mild-to-moderate problems:

  • Soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given
  • Fever, muscle aches, and drowsiness

Severe problems (rare) including allergic reactions:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Hives
  • Pale skin
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Dizziness

Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help ease pain and reduce fever.

It's extremely rare for these vaccines to cause serious harm or death. If the person getting the vaccine has a serious reaction, seek immediate medical attention.

The pneumonia vaccine is available at:

Healthcare Clinic for patients aged 65+, ages 19-64 who smoke or have asthma, ages 7+ with long-term health conditions.1
Walgreens Pharmacy. Ages vary by state.

Walk in or schedule an appointment at the location nearest you.

If you believe you have a medical emergency,  please call 911.

Call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at 800-232-4636 or visit the CDC website, at cdc.gov/vaccines, for more vaccine information.

References

Atkinson W, Hamborsky J, McIntyre L, Wolfe S, eds. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases. 10th ed. Washington, DC: Public Health Foundation, 2007.

Vaccine Information Statement: Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine (What You Need to Know). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Oct. 6, 2009. cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/default.htm. Accessed April 2013.

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This publication should be used for general educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Although it is intended to be accurate, neither Walgreen Co., its subsidiaries or affiliates, nor any other party assumes liability for loss or damage due to reliance on this publication.