The pneumonia shot is a vaccine that helps protect you against pneumococcal disease, or diseases caused by bacteria known as Streptococcus pneumoniae. The vaccine can help protect you from pneumococcal disease for many years.
One of the most common causes of pneumonia is infection of the lungs with the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae.
These bacteria mainly affect your lungs and can cause sometimes life-threatening infections in other parts of your body, too, including the bloodstream (bacteremia), or brain and spine (meningitis).
The pneumonia shot is especially recommended if you fall into one of these age groups:
- Younger than 2 years old: four shots (at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, and then a booster between 12 and 15 months)
- 65 years old or older: two shots, which will last you the rest of your life
- Between 2 and 64 years old: between one and three shots if you have certain immune system disorders or if you’re a smoker
Pneumococcal disease is common among babies and toddlers, so make sure your young child is vaccinated. But older adults are more at risk of having life-threatening complications from a pneumonia infection, so it’s also important to start getting vaccinated around age 65.
You’ll likely receive one of two pneumonia vaccines: pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13 or Prevnar 13) or pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23 or Pneumovax 23).
|helps protect you against 13 different strains of pneumococcal bacteria||helps protect you against 23 different strains of pneumococcal bacteria|
|usually given four separate times to children under two||generally given once to anyone over 64|
|generally given only once to adults older than 64 or adults older than 19 if they have an immune condition||given to anyone over 19 who regularly smokes nicotine products like cigarettes (standard or electronic) or cigars|
Some other things to keep in mind:
- Both vaccines help prevent pneumococcal complications like bacteremia and meningitis.
- You’ll need more than one pneumonia shot during your lifetime. A 2016 study found that, if you’re over 64, receiving both the PCV13 shot and the PPSV23 shot provide the best protection against all the strains of bacteria that cause pneumonia.
- Don’t get the shots too close together. You’ll need to wait about a year in between each shot.
- Check with your doctor to make sure you’re not allergic to any of the ingredients used to make these vaccines before getting either shot.
Not everyone should get these vaccines. Avoid PCV13 if you’ve had severe allergies in the past to:
- a vaccine made with diphtheria toxoid (such as DTaP)
- another version of the shot called PCV7 (Prevnar)
- any previous injections of a pneumonia shot
And avoid PPSV23 if you:
- are allergic to any ingredients in the shot
- have had severe allergies to a PPSV23 shot in the past
- are very sick
The immune system reaction that follows a vaccine injection has a chance of causing side effects. But keep in mind that the substances that make up vaccines are usually the harmless sugar (polysaccharide) surface of the bacteria.
There’s no need to worry that a vaccine will cause an infection.
Some possible side effects include:
- low-grade fever between 98.6°F (37°C) and 100.4°F (38°C)
- irritation, redness, or swelling where you were injected
Side effects may also vary based on how old you are when you’re injected. Side effects that are more common in babies include:
- inability to fall asleep
- irritable behavior
- not taking food or a lack of appetite
Rare but severe symptoms in babies can include:
- high fever of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher
- seizures that result from a fever (febrile seizures)
- itchiness from a rash or redness
Side effects more common in adults include:
- feeling sore where you were injected
- hardness or swelling where you were injected
People of all ages with allergies to certain ingredients in the pneumonia vaccine may have some serious allergic reactions to the shot.
The most serious possible reaction is anaphylactic shock. This happens when your throat swells and blocks your windpipe, making it difficult or impossible to breathe. Seek emergency medical attention if this happens.
It’s still possible to get pneumonia even if you’ve had either of these shots. Each of the two vaccines is about 50 to 70 percent effective.
Efficacy also varies based on your age and how strong your immune system is. PPSV23 can be 60 to 80 percent effective if you’re over 64 and have a healthy immune system, but lower if you’re over 64 and have an immune disorder.
The pneumonia shot is an effective way to help prevent complications caused by a bacterial infection.
Get it at least once in your life, especially if you’re over 64. It’s best to get vaccinated when you’re a baby or if you have a condition that affects your immune system, according to your doctor’s recommendations.