Pneumonia vaccines help prevent invasive pneumococcal diseases. People should get a pneumonia shot at least once in their life. The type of shot will depend on a person’s age and health status.

Pneumonia is an infection that causes inflammation in the lung’s air sacs. The inflammation can cause the sacs to fill with pus or fluid. Typical symptoms include cough, fever, chills, and difficulty breathing.

There are two types of pneumonia: bacterial and viral. According to the American Lung Association, bacterial pneumonia is more common and results in a more serious illness.

Pneumonia is common among children and older adults, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people over the age of 65 years are most at risk for serious illness or death.

In this article, we look at more information about the pneumonia vaccine and when a person should receive it.

a woman getting a pneumonia vaccine from a doctor and asking how often she needs to get themShare on Pinterest
A doctor may recommend a pneumonia shot to anyone with underlying health conditions.

How often a person should get the pneumonia vaccine depends on their age and overall health.

The CDC recommend the following schedules:

  • Infants should receive the PCV13 vaccine at 2, 4, 6, and 12–15 months.
  • Adults only need one dose of PCV13.
  • A single dose of PPSV23 is sufficient for anyone who needs it, such as those over 65 years of age and people with underlying health conditions.

A person under the age of 65 years should receive the PPSV23 vaccine if they smoke, are receiving chemotherapy treatment, or have any of the following conditions:

A person can get both vaccines if they have any of the above conditions or any of the following:

  • cerebrospinal fluid leak
  • cochlear implants
  • anatomic or functional asplenia, which is when the tissue of the spleen does not work

However, the CDC recommend that if people need to have both vaccines, they should get them in separate visits.

Who should not get the vaccine?

People should not get the vaccine if they have had a life threatening allergic reaction to a previous dose.

Additionally, a person should not undergo vaccination if they have had an allergic reaction to medication containing diphtheria toxoid or an earlier form of the pneumonia vaccination (PCV7).

Lastly, people who are sick or have allergic reactions to any of the ingredients of the vaccine should talk to a doctor before getting the shot.

A pneumonia shot will not reduce pneumonia. However, it helps prevent invasive pneumococcal diseases, such as meningitis, endocarditis, empyema, and bacteremia, which is when bacteria enter the bloodstream.

Noninvasive pneumococcal disease includes sinusitis.

There are two types of pneumonia shots available. Which type a person gets depends on their age, whether or not they smoke, and the presence of any underlying medical conditions.

The two types are:

  • Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13): Healthcare providers recommend this vaccine for young children, people with certain underlying conditions, and some people over the age of 65 years.
  • Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23): Healthcare providers recommend this vaccine for anyone over 65 years of age, people with certain underlying conditions, and people who smoke.

According to the CDC, PCV13 protects children and others against 13 different strains of bacterial pneumonia. PCSV23 protects older adults and others who need it against 23 different strains of bacterial pneumonia.

Although the pneumonia shots will not prevent a person from ever getting pneumonia, they may help in reducing cases of invasive pneumococcal diseases.

At least one dose of PCV13 protects:

  • roughly 8 in 10 babies from invasive pneumococcal disease
  • 45 in 100 adults 65 years or older against pneumococcal pneumonia
  • 75 in 100 adults 65 years or older against invasive pneumococcal disease

One dose of PCSV23 helps protect about 50–85 out of 100 healthy adults against invasive pneumococcal disease.

If a person receives a second pneumonia shot too soon, they may experience worse side effects than someone receiving the vaccine for the first time. In particular, severe localized, arthritis-like reactions are more frequent.

The general CDC guidelines for people who are 65 years of age or older vary, depending on the type of vaccine.

If a person received one dose of PPSV23 prior to the age of 65 years, they should get one final shot after this age. However, they should wait until it has been at least 5 years since the first shot. For example, if they received their first shot at 62 years of age, they should wait until they are 67 years old for the second and final dose.

If a person wants both PCV13 and PPSV23 after the age of 65 years, they should get the PCV13 first and wait 1 year to get the PPSV23 shot. If they have already received the PPSV23, they should wait at least 1 year before getting the PCV13 shot.

Most people who get the pneumonia vaccine will not experience any side effects. However, as with any medication or vaccine, there is a risk that a person will develop side effects. These side effects typically disappear after a few days.

Some potential mild side effects from PCV13 include:

  • fever
  • a reaction at the injection site, such as swelling, redness, or pain and tenderness
  • irritability
  • loss of appetite
  • a headache
  • chills
  • feeling tired

Some potential mild side effects from PPSV23 include:

  • muscle aches
  • fever
  • a reaction at the injection site, such as tenderness, redness, or swelling

With PCV13, there is some risk of seizure in young children if they receive the shot at the same time as a flu vaccine. A parent or caregiver should talk to a doctor about the best times to get each shot.

A person who is over 65 years of age should talk to their doctor about which pneumonia vaccine may be best for them. The doctor can help determine whether they should get the vaccination, which vaccination to get, and when to get it.

Parents and caregivers of young children should talk to a pediatrician about the schedule for the pneumonia vaccination. The pediatrician can also address any questions or concerns about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccination.

A person does not need to see a doctor for mild reactions to the vaccine, such as tenderness at the injection site, fever, or fatigue.

However, if a person experiences any life threatening side effects, they should seek emergency help immediately.

Signs and symptoms of allergic reactions in children may include:

Allergic reactions in adults can lead to:

  • respiratory symptoms, such as wheezing
  • labored breathing
  • persistent coughing
  • vomiting
  • abdominal pain
  • low blood pressure
  • chest pain

The pneumonia vaccination is a safe and effective way to help prevent some of the most severe cases of pneumonia.

Healthcare providers recommend the shot for infants, people with weakened immune systems, and those who are over 65 years of age. People who have certain medical conditions or are allergic to the vaccine should not get the shot.

Pneumonia vaccination may cause mild side effects in some people, but these should go away on their own within a few days.