Pneumococcal vaccine

Streptococcus pneumoniae

Despite good access to antibiotics, Streptococcus pneumoniae is still a significant cause of illness and death worldwide.

  • It is one of the main causes of exacerbations of COPD.
  • It is the bacteria which most frequently causes community- acquired pneumonia.
  • Children are the main carriers (present in about 60% of children)
  • S. pneumoniae can also cause blood infection (septicaemia) and infection in the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis).

The presence of chronic respiratory illness is a major risk factor for contracting pneumonia.

  • Smoking (the most common cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is also an important risk factor for pneumonia.

Pneumococcal vaccine prevents pneumococcal disease in older people and in other high-risk groups.

  • The 23 pneumococcal types in the vaccine include those that cause almost all (about 9 out of 10) infections caused by pneumococci.
  • It is an inactive vaccine and doesn’t contain live organisms, so won’t cause disease.
  • It is considered 50-70% effective.
  • This is generally a once in a lifetime injection but occassionally some patients require a booster every 5 years.

Pneumococcal infections can occur at any age but are more likely in:

  • Frail elderly people.
  • People who have lost their spleen or whose spleen is not working.
  • People who have low resistance to infections due to longstanding illnesses or infections (such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes mellitus, kidney disease, liver disease or HIV infection).
  • People who have low resistance to infections due to treatment that they have had for some illnesses (such as cancer).
  • People aged 65 and over.
  • People under 65 and with a long term chronic health condition.