Pneumonia is a serious lung infection that affects millions of people each year and can potentially cause death.
The pneumonia vaccine, also known as a pneumococcal vaccine, immunizes against infections with Streptococcus pneumoniae, a bacteria that can cause pneumonia, meningitis, and sepsis.
Most people carry this bacteria in their nose and throat without feeling sick. They can get pneumonia by breathing the bacteria into the lungs, or spread it to other people by coughing and sneezing it into the air.
There are two types of pneumonia vaccines: conjugate vaccines (PCV Prevnar13®) and polysaccharide vaccines (PPSV23 Pneumovax23®). They protect against 13 or 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria.
There are about 90 types of pneumococcal bacteria and pneumonia vaccines only protect against the most serious types. Vaccinated patients may still get pneumonia, but infections tend to be less severe.
PCV13 is recommended in a series of four doses for infants and young children, with one dose at each of the following ages: 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, and 12-15 months.
Two pneumococcal vaccines are recommended for all adults over 65 years old, with one dose of PCV13 followed by a dose of PPSV23 at least 1 year later, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Pneumonia vaccines are also offered to adults younger than 65 who have certain medical conditions that make it easier to develop pneumonia. Examples include diabetes, heart disease, asthma, COPD, smoking cigarettes, cancer, and more. If you think you may need a pneumococcal vaccine, talk to your doctor for information.