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Pneumococcal vaccine helping infants and older adults

Grandmother hugging her young granddaughter - Pneumococcal Vaccination
Young children and people over the age of 65 should get the pneumococcal vaccine.

Influenza and COVID-19 tend to grab many of the vaccine headlines, but another type of vaccine should also be on your radar. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are about 150,000 hospitalizations from pneumococcal pneumonia each year in the United States. It is one thing the pneumococcal vaccine can help prevent.

What is pneumococcal disease?

Pneumococcal disease is any health problem caused by the bacterium streptococcus pneumoniae.

“This is a germ that is commonly found living inside of our mouths and noses without causing any harm,” said Dr. Paul Thompson, Marshfield Clinic Health System family medicine physician. “But occasionally, it gets into the body and causes infections.”

The bacteria can cause a variety of illnesses, from pneumococcal pneumonia to ear infections and sinus infections. Sometimes these infections are serious enough to require hospitalization. In rare cases, very serious infections like meningitis can occur. The pneumococcal vaccine offers protection against all of these.

Those young and old benefit from the vaccine

Normally, the pneumococcal vaccine is given to infants and adults older than 65. Both of these age groups are at higher risk of serious disease from the pneumococcus germ. However, people with certain conditions should also get the vaccine.

“Anyone who is a smoker, or who has heart disease, chronic lung or kidney disease or diabetes falls into this category,” said Dr. Thompson. “In addition, anyone with a condition or medical treatment that affects the immune system should get the pneumococcal vaccine.”

The vaccine helps prevent disease by making it hard for the pneumococcus to survive inside the body. There are two types of the vaccine: pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV) and pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV).

“Currently, the PCV is preferred because it causes a stronger and longer-lasting immune response,” said Dr. Thompson. “It also can help cause herd immunity, so rates of the disease go down even in people who have not been vaccinated. If you have only had the PPSV vaccine, you should get the PCV also, with at least one year between the shots.”

Misconceptions about getting vaccinated

Like most vaccines, the most common side effects are discomfort and tenderness at the injection site. If you want to learn more about the pneumococcal vaccine, talk to your primary care provider.

“We also want you to know that the pneumococcal vaccines for adults were first introduced in 1977 and have decades of scientific research that support their safety and effectiveness,” said Dr. Thompson. “We recommend them for everyone in the groups mentioned above because they are proven to decrease the costs, illnesses, hospitalizations and even deaths that can come from pneumococcal disease.”

For questions about the pneumococcal vaccine, talk to a Marshfield Clinic Health System provider.

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2 responses to “Pneumococcal vaccine helping infants and older adults”

  1. Kathy Rhyner

    If I received the Pneumococcal vaccine a year ago do I need to do anything else to be vaccinated?

    1. Kirsten Shakal, Shine365 Editor

      Hi, Kathy. Adults usually just need one shot to be vaccinated.

      The vaccines are given "in a 4-dose series in infants" and "one time in adults; some people need a second dose of one of the vaccines." Your health care provider can tell you more about the vaccines, whether you should get them, and the number of shots you should receive."

      If you have questions regarding your vaccine from a year ago, please contact your provider. Messaging options are available via My Marshfield Clinic: https://www.marshfieldclinic.org/MyMarshfieldClinic -Kirstie

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