Overview

The pneumococcal vaccine provides some protection against a form of bacterial meningitis caused by pneumococcal bacteria, as well as 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 is usually only given once.

Strict infection prevention and control measure are in place during your appointment. Please follow the latest coronavirus COVID-19 guidance when attending your appointment.

Who needs a pneumococcal vaccination?

The pneumococcal vaccine is available in Scotland for all people aged 65 years and over.

It may also be available if you're under 65 (including children) and fall under one of the following risk groups, or have one of the following serious medical conditions:

  • problems with the spleen, either because the spleen has been removed or doesn't work properly (asplenia)
  • chronic respiratory diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic bronchitis, and emphysema
  • serious heart conditions
  • severe kidney disease
  • long-term liver disease
  • diabetes that requires medication
  • lowered immunity due to disease or treatment, such as people with HIV, people receiving chemotherapy for cancer, or people who are on long-term oral steroids for conditions such as asthma
  • cochlear implants (a specific hearing device)
  • cerebrospinal fluid leaks
  • if your job involves exposure to metal fumes (for example, if you are a welder)

What's pneumococcal infection and how is it spread?

Pneumococcal infection is caused by pneumococcal bacteria and can cause serious illnesses, such as pneumonia.

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 but it can lead to pneumococcal infection, including pneumococcal meningitis.

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.

Read more about meningitis

Read more about ear infections

Read more about pneumonia

The vaccine

The pneumococcal vaccine provides some protection against one of the most common causes of meningitis, and against other conditions such as severe ear infections and pneumonia caused by pneumococcal bacteria. This vaccine doesn't, however, protect against meningitis caused by other bacteria or viruses.

People aged 65 or over only need a single dose of the vaccine, which will help protect them for life.

People with a long-term health condition will either need a one-off single dose or one dose every 5 years, depending on their underlying health condition. Some children aged 2 or over with a health condition may also need additional doses.

What vaccine is used?

The Pneumococcal Polysaccharide vaccine is routinely used in Scotland.

How do we know the vaccine is safe?

All medicines (including vaccines) are tested for safety and effectiveness by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The vaccine meets the high safety standards required for it to be used in the UK and other European countries. The vaccine has been given to millions of people worldwide.

Once they're in use, the safety of vaccines continues to be monitored by the MHRA.

After the vaccine

After having the vaccine there may be side effects, but these are usually mild.

Any reactions are generally minor and disappear within a few days. The vaccine doesn't contain live bacteria and can't cause an infection.

Where can I report suspected side effects?

You can report suspected side effects of vaccines and medicines through the Yellow Card Scheme.

This can be done by:

  • visiting the Yellow Card Scheme website
  • phoning the free Yellow Card hotline on 0800 731 6789 (available Monday to Friday)

Further information

If you’re unsure about anything, or have any questions about the pneumococcal vaccine, phone:

Immunisation leaflet

NHS Health Scotland has produced a leaflet explaining the pneumococcal vaccination in Scotland, why it's offered, and when it's given.

This leaflet's also available in Easy Read English and other languages - including Polish, Mandarin (Simplified Chinese) and Arabic.

Pneumococcal vaccine. Helps protect against pneumonia and meningitis

Audio leaflet

Vaccine Safety Net Member

Public Health Scotland is a proud member of the Vaccine Safety Net and partners with NHS inform to provide reliable information on vaccine safety.

The Vaccine Safety Net is a global network of websites, evaluated by the World Health Organization, that provides reliable information on vaccine safety.

More about the Vaccine Safety Net

Last updated:
19 April 2022

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