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Pneumonia Vaccine Facts

Vaccination is the best way to prevent pneumococcal pneumonia, a common form of bacterial pneumonia. Pneumococcal disease is a serious health threat that can lead to death. In the U.S. alone, more people die from pneumonia each year than all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined.

What types of pneumonia vaccines are available?
Who needs a booster shot of the pneumonia vaccine?
Who should NOT get the pneumonia vaccine?
When does protection from the pneumonia vaccine begin?
What are the side effects of the pneumonia vaccine?
Can a person 65 years of age or older receive both vaccines at the same time?
Can influenza (flu) and pneumonia vaccines be given at the same time?
Are the pneumococcal vaccines effective?
What does the pneumonia vaccine cost?

What types of pneumonia vaccines are available?

There are two different types of pneumonia vaccines, both of which are provided by MedStar Visiting Nurse Association (VNA).

  1. Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23): Also known as Pneumovax, this vaccine is recommended for adults 65 and older. Pneumovax provides protection against 23 different strains of Streptococcus pneumonia bacteria. This vaccine is made using dead bacteria.
  2. Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13): Also called Prevnar 13, this vaccine is routinely given to infants and toddlers, but also approved for use among adults 50 and older. It is recommended for all adults 65 and older. Prevnar 13 provides protection against 13 strains of pneumococcal bacteria.

Who needs a booster shot of the pneumococcal vaccine?

Some people may need a booster shot after five years. The doctor will recommend a second dose of Pneumovax if you are between the ages of 19 and 64 and have:

  • A damaged spleen or no spleen
  • Kidney disease
  • A weakened immune system
  • Cancer
  • History of an organ or bone marrow transplant
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Sickle cell disease

Adults over 65 who received Pneumovax before age 65 also need a booster shot if it has been more than five years since being vaccinated.

Who should NOT get the pneumococcal vaccine?

Individuals should NOT receive either pneumococcal vaccine if they:

  • Experienced a life-threatening allergic reaction to either vaccine
  • Are severely allergic to any of the vaccines' ingredients
  • Are moderately to severely ill at the time of scheduled vaccination
  • Are pregnant*

*It is not known whether the Pneumovax and Prevnar 13 vaccines are safe to get during pregnancy. There are no reports of harm to babies whose mothers received the vaccine before realizing they were pregnant. Pregnant women should only receive these vaccinations if they are clearly needed.

When does protection from the pneumonia vaccine begin?

Most healthy adults develop protection within two to three weeks of getting the shot.

What are the side effects of the pneumococcal vaccine?

Like all vaccines, both Pneumovax and Prevnar 13 can have side effects. But the risk of harm or death from either is extremely rare.

Reported side effects are similar for both vaccines. Less than one percent of people who receive these vaccines have reported:

  • Swelling, pain, or redness where the shot was given
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches

Although rare, those who experience a severe allergic reaction usually begin to experience symptoms within a few minutes of receiving a pneumococcal vaccine. The following can be signs of a severe allergic reaction:

  • Behavior changes
  • Breathing difficulty, including wheezing
  • Dizziness
  • Hoarse voice
  • High fever
  • Hives
  • Pale skin
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Weakness

Seek immediate medical care if you notice any of these side effects after receiving either pneumococcal vaccine.

Can a person 65 years of age or older receive both vaccines at the same time?

Pneumovax and Prevnar 13 should not be given at the same time. Healthy people 65 years of age and older, who have never received Pneumovax, should receive Prevnar 13 first followed by a dose of Pneumovax one year later.

Can influenza (flu) and pneumococcal vaccines be given at the same time?

Yes, you can get either pneumococcal vaccine (but not both pneumonia vaccines) when you get the influenza (flu) vaccine. While you do not need a pneumococcal vaccine every year, it is important that you get a flu shot every flu season. Having the flu increases your chances of getting pneumonia.

Are the pneumococcal vaccines effective?

Yes. Studies have shown both vaccines to be highly effective in preventing pneumococcal disease in young children and adults. To learn more about these recent studies, visit the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) website.

What does the pneumococcal vaccine cost?

Most private health insurance policies cover pneumococcal vaccines. Check with your insurance provider for details on whether there is any cost to you and for a list of in-network vaccine providers. Medicare Part B also covers 100% of the cost for both pneumococcal vaccines (when administered at least one year apart).

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To learn more about MedStar VNA’s vaccination and wellness programs, call:
800-231-3201.

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