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This information was reviewed and approved by Christopher A Czaja, MD (2/1/2013).

This form of pneumonia is caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria. It is spread through extensive close contact with exchange of respiratory secretions.

Happy couple It can occur as a major complication of influenza (flu) or without influenza. Complications can be very serious for people with compromised immune systems.

Streptococcus pneumoniae is a common cause of community-acquired pneumonia, sinusitis and upper respiratory disease and an important cause of invasive disease, including blood stream infection and meningitis. People at greatest risk for invasive disease include children older than 2 years, adults 65 years of age and older, and those with high-risk medical conditions. After the PCV7 vaccine for infants became available in 2000, the rate of invasive pneumococcal disease decreased nearly 50 percent by 2007.

Symptoms include: 

  • High fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • Nasal congestion or discharge
  • Ear pain
  • Slow, unclear thinking

The pneumococcal vaccine can lessen the chance of getting pneumococcal pneumonia; however, it is not a substitute for the influenza vaccine. There are two types of the pneumococcal vaccine: PPSV23 and PCV13.


PPSV23 Vaccine

PPSV23 helps to protect someone from 23 strains of pneumococcal bacteria. This vaccine may be repeated in 5-7 years. It is safe to receive both the influenza and pneumococcal vaccines at the same time.


Who should receive the PPSV23 vaccine? 

  • Anyone age 65 and older
  • Higher-risk adults aged 19-64 who meet one or more of these criteria:
    • Serious long-term health condition
    • Heart disease
    • Sickle cell anemia
    • Alcoholism
    • Chronic lung disease (COPD, emphysema, asthma)
    • Diabetes
    • Liver cirrhosis
    • Smokers
    • Hodgkin's disease
    • Multiple myeloma
    • Cancer treatment
    • Transplant patients
    • Kidney failure
    • HIV/AIDS
    • Lymphoma
    • Leukemia

A one-time revaccination dose of PPSV23 is recommended 5 years after the first dose for those with functional or anatomic asplenia and for immunocompromised people.

All adults older than 65 years should receive PPSV23 regardless of previous vaccination, as long as 5 years have passed since the previous PPSV23 vaccination.  

Adults older than 19 years with immunocompromising conditions, functional or anatomic asplenia, cerebrospinal fluid leak or cochlear implant should also receive a single dose of PCV13.

PCV13 Vaccine

PCV13 is a vaccine that contains 12 of the 23 strains of pneumococcal bacteria found in the PPSV23 vaccine; these 12 strains have been targeted for a better immune response in the body to prevent pneumonia after receiving the vaccination.

Who should receive the PCV13 vaccine? 

  • All children aged 2–59 months
  • Children aged 60–71 months with underlying medical conditions that increase their risk for pneumococcal disease or complications
    • High risk conditions include chronic heart, lung, kidney or liver disease, diabetes mellitus, alcohol abuse, immunocompromising conditions, functional or anatomic asplenia, cerebrospinal fluid leak or cochlear implant. 
  • Typical routine vaccination includes a 4-dose series within the first 15 months of age at ages 2, 4, 6, and 12-15 months.  

Children with high-risk medical conditions should also receive one dose of PPSV23 after completing PCV13. A second dose of PPSV23 is recommended 5 years after the first dose for children with functional or anatomic asplenia, HIV or other immunocompromising conditions.

Talk with your health care provider about which version of the vaccine is right for you.