Find out more about the whooping cough vaccine and other vaccines offered to pregnant women and babies

Pneumococcal vaccine

Overview

The pneumococcal vaccine provides some protection against illnesses caused by pneumococcal bacteria.

What are pneumococcal bacteria?

Pneumococcal bacteria cause pneumococcal infection. They can cause serious illnesses like pneumonia and bacterial meningitis. They can also cause other conditions like severe ear infections.

Some adults carry pneumococcal bacteria in the back of their nose and throat. They can pass bacteria on by coughing, sneezing, and close contact.

Exposure to pneumococcal bacteria doesn’t normally result in serious illness. But, sometimes it leads to pneumococcal infections.

You have a higher chance of becoming unwell with a pneumococcal infection if:

  • you’re aged 65 or over
  • you’re under 65 and have certain health conditions

People aged 65 or over are more likely to suffer serious long-term health problems from pneumococcal infection. These health problems can lead to death.

What is pneumococcal disease and why do we need a vaccine?

Dr Andrew Prendergast explains why it’s important to vaccinate against pneumococcal disease.

Read more about meningitis

Read more about ear infections

Read more about pneumonia

Why should I be vaccinated?

The pneumococcal vaccine provides some protection against the serious conditions caused by pneumococcal bacteria. These conditions include:

  • one of the most common types of meningitis
  • severe ear infections
  • pneumonia caused by pneumococcal bacteria

This vaccine doesn’t protect against meningitis or pneumonia caused by other bacteria or viruses.

Who is eligible for the vaccine?

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

Some people under 65 are also eligible for the vaccine if they have certain health conditions, or are at high risk of exposure because of their job. You may be at risk if you have:

asplenia or problems with the spleen

This includes conditions that can lead to problems with the spleen, like homozygous sickle cell disease or coeliac syndrome.

Read more about vaccinations for those with problems with their spleen (asplenia)

chronic respiratory disease

This includes:

Children may also be eligible for the pneumococcal vaccine if they have:

  • a respiratory condition caused by aspiration (fluid entering the lungs)
  • a neurological disease that increases the risk of aspiration (fluid entering the lungs), like cerebral palsy
chronic heart disease

This includes conditions like:

chronic liver disease

This can include:

  • cirrhosis
  • biliary atresia
  • chronic hepatitis
chronic kidney disease

This can include:

diabetes

If you’ve diabetes and use insulin or anti-diabetic medication, you’re eligible for extra pneumococcal vaccinations.

If your diabetes is controlled by diet and you’re under 65 years old, you’re not eligible for extra pneumococcal vaccination.

If you’re over 65 years old, you’re eligible for your pneumococcal vaccination regardless of how your diabetes is controlled.

immunosuppression

People who are immunosuppressed may be offered extra pneumococcal vaccines. These people include patients who:

  • are having chemotherapy
  • have had a bone marrow transplant
  • have asplenia or problems with their spleen
  • have complement disorder
  • have HIV infection (at any stage)
  • have multiple myeloma
  • have a genetic disorder that affects the immune system, like IRAK-4 or NEMO
  • are on or are likely to be on a high dose of systemic steroids for more than a month
cochlear implants

Individuals with cochlear implants are eligible for extra pneumococcal vaccinations

cerebrospinal fluid leak

If you have leakage of cerebrospinal fluid from trauma or major skull surgery, you may be eligible for extra pneumococcal vaccinations.

This does not include leakage from CSF shunts, which deliberately drain excess fluid from the brain to another part of the body.

occupational risk

Research has found a link between exposure to metal fumes and pneumonia.

If your job involves frequent or constant exposure to metal fumes, you may be considered at risk. This would make you eligible for the pneumococcal vaccine. An example of an at risk occupation would be a welder.

How do I get my pneumococcal vaccination?

You do not need to arrange your appointment. You’ll be contacted by your local NHS immunisation team when you’re eligible to be immunised.  They’ll tell you:

  • the date and time of your appointment
  • where your appointment will be

They’ll contact you by sending an invitation to your home address. This is the address that is registered with your GP.

You can be invited for the vaccine at any time of the year.

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

The vaccine

The pneumococcal vaccine is the best way to protect yourself against the diseases and conditions caused by the pneumococcal bacteria.

What vaccine is used?

The Pneumococcal Polysaccharide vaccine is routinely used in Scotland.

How many doses of the vaccine do I need?

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 need additional doses.

How do we know the vaccine is safe?

All medicines (including vaccines) are tested for safety and effectiveness before they’re allowed to be used. Their safety continues to be monitored while in use 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.

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.

Side effects

Some people may get some swelling and soreness around the site of the injection for a few days, or they might get a slight fever (temperature above 37.8°C). Other side effects are very rare.

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, 9am to 5pm)

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

Information in other languages and formats

Information leaflets from Public Health Scotland are available in

  • British Sign Language (BSL), Audio, Easy Read, and Large Print formats
  • English and other languages

You can request another format or language (for example Braille) by emailing phs.otherformats@phs.scot.

Last updated:
17 July 2024

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