For adults there are two vaccines to protect against pneumococcal disease: Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine (PPSV23), and Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV13). Both are inactivated vaccines.
The vaccine for children and adults, called pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13 or Prevnar 13®), protects against the 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria that cause most of the severe illness in children and adults. The vaccine can also help prevent some ear infections. PCV13 protects children and adults by preparing their bodies to fight the bacteria. PCV13 is also recommended to help prevent pneumococcal disease in adults 19 years or older with certain medical conditions and in all adults 65 years or older.
The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23 or Pneumovax 23®) protects against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria. It is recommended for all adults 65 years and older and for anyone who is 2 years and older at high risk for disease. PPSV23 is also recommended for adults 19 through 64 years of age who smoke cigarettes or who have asthma.
Adults 65 years of age or older are now recommended to get the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13, Prevnar-13®) followed by the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23, Pneumovax®23) 6-12 months later. Click here for the full MMWR
The PPSV is the best way to protect against developing severe illness or death. People aged 2–64 years with long-term illness or on certain long-term drugs are also at high risk for infection and should get the PPSV vaccine.
People who should not get the PPSV include those who have had a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine before. People with current serious illness should wait until they are better to get the PPSV. Mild illnesses, such as a minor lower respiratory tract infection, do not require waiting to get the vaccine.
It is safe to get the PPSV while breastfeeding. The vaccine does not harm breastfeeding women or their infants. If you are in a high-risk group and could become pregnant, you should get the vaccine before becoming pregnant. Health care providers do not know if the PPSV is safe for babies during pregnancy.
PPSV is one of three vaccines covered by Medicare. Medicare covers one dose per person. It also covers a booster for high-risk adults if it has been at least 5 years since their last PPSV.
For more information, visit the CDC’s section on pneumococcal vaccination
Pneumococcal vaccines are very safe and effective at preventing pneumococcal disease. Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. The most common side effects from pneumococcal vaccines are mild and last 1 or 2 days.
Very rarely, severe (anaphylactic) allergic reactions may occur after vaccination.
For more information on pneumococcal vaccine safety, visit CDC's webpage Pneumococcal Vaccine Safety