Studies have shown that the pneumococcal vaccine provides some protection against a form of bacterial meningitis caused by pneumococcal bacteria and other conditions such as severe ear infections. The vaccine doesn't protect against all types of pneumococcal infection and doesn't protect against meningitis caused by other bacteria or viruses.
The pneumococcal vaccine's recommended for many of the same people who receive an annual flu vaccine and other selected groups of people at higher risk of developing complications from pneumococcal infection.
The pneumococcal vaccine's usually only given once.
Who needs a pneumococcal vaccination?
Anyone aged 65 years or over is eligible for the vaccine. GPs may, at their own discretion, provide immunisation to anyone aged under 65 with the following serious medical conditions:
- Problems with the spleen, either because the spleen has been removed or doesn’t work properly - for example sickle cell disorder and coeliac disease
- Chronic lung disease, including chronic bronchitis or emphysema
- Serious heart conditions
- Severe kidney disease
- Long-term liver disease
- Diabetes requiring medication
- Lowered immunity due to disease or treatment - for example HIV, chemotherapy for cancer or long-term oral steroids for conditions such as asthma
- Cochlear implants
- Individuals with cerebrospinal fluid leaks
- Children under 5 years of age who have previously had invasive pneumococcal disease, such as meningitis or bacteraemia
What's pneumococcal infection and how's it spread?
Pneumococcal infection's caused by pneumococcal bacteria and can cause serious illnesses, such as pneumonia. Pneumococcal infection's also one of the most common causes of meningitis (an infection of the lining of the brain).
Some adults carry pneumococcal bacteria in the back of their nose and throat and can pass them around by coughing, sneezing and close contact. Usually this doesn’t result in serious illness.
More about meningitis, ear infections and pneumonia
Why should I worry about pneumococcal infection?
Pneumococcal infection can cause:
- ear and sinus infections
- life-threatening infection of the blood (septicaemia)
- pneumonia (which can also be life-threatening).
People aged 65 or over, and adults with certain health conditions, have a higher chance of becoming unwell with pneumococcal infection. People aged 65 or over are more likely to suffer serious long-term health problems from pneumococcal infection, and can even die.
More about meningitis and septicaemia