Vaccines for Pneumonia

Published: May 26, 2016
Last reviewed: April 24, 2017

The recommendations about pneumonia vaccines presented here are mainly from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention ( and Immunization Action Coalition ( If you intend to get vaccinated, we suggest you discuss with your doctor before that.

Which vaccines against pneumonia are available?

1. PCV13

PCV13 or “pneumococcal conjugate vaccine,” which contains killed (not live) bacteria, protects against 13 strains of the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae, is intended for [5,8]:

  • Infants. Vaccination schedule for infants includes 4 shots of PCV13: at 2nd, 4th and 6th month and one between 12th and 15th month [6].
  • Healthy individuals after 65 years of age as the initial vaccine
  • Individuals 19-64 years of age with increased risk of pneumonia due to impaired immunity caused by congenital or acquired immunodeficiency, HIV/AIDS, chronic kidney disease, nephrotic syndrome, leukemia, lymphoma or other cancer, immunosuppressive or steroid therapy or chemotherapy, absent spleen (asplenia) or sickle cell disease [4,8]

2. PPSV23

PPSV23 or “pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine,” which contains dead bacteria, protects against 23 strains of the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae, is intended for [4,5]:

  • Adults 65 years or older as the second (booster vaccine)
  • Individuals between 2 and 64 years of age who are at increased risk of infection due to:
    • Cigarette smoking (for anyone 19 years and older)
    • Chronic cardiovascular disease
    • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
    • Asthma (for anyone 19 years or older)
    • Chronic conditions, such as diabetes mellitus, alcoholism, chronic liver or kidney disease, absent spleen, sickle cell disease, congenital immunodeficiency, HIV/AIDS, leukemia, lymphoma or other cancer
    • Immunosuppressive therapy associated with solid organ transplantation, steroid therapy, chemotherapy

NOTE 1: The PPSV23 vaccine is not effective in children younger than 2 years [4].

NOTE 2: The PCV13 and PPSV23 vaccines should not be given at the same time, but at least 1 year apart. You can get either vaccine together with the flu vaccine, though [4].

3. Hib Vaccine

A vaccine against the bacterium Haemophilus influenzae type B–a common cause of pneumonia in infants–is available.

4. Other Vaccines

  • Influenza vaccine can prevent the flu and thus pneumonia, which often develops as a complication of flu, especially in older individuals [1].
  • Vaccines against measles, chicken pox and whooping cough (pertussis) can prevent pneumonia, which can develop as a complication of these diseases, especially in small children [1].

The medicine palivizumab (not a vaccine) given as monthly shots in the muscle can prevent infection with the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), which can cause pneumonia, mainly in infants and elderly [3].

Currently, there are NO vaccines available for:

Who and how often should get pneumococcal vaccine?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Immunization Action Coalition recommendations:

  • All infants: PCV13 vaccine in 4 shots at 2nd, 4th, 6th and 12-15th month
  • All individuals older than 65 years (even when already vaccinated when younger): PCV13, followed after 5 years by PPSV23 vaccine
  • Individuals of any age with increased risk of pneumonia: PCV13, followed after 5 years by PPSV23 vaccine

Pneumococcal vaccine is not routinely recommended for healthcare workers (doctors, nurses) because Pneumococcus does not spread easily and the infection only sometimes causes a disease with symptoms [4].

How often should one get a vaccine?

Infants: should get the PCV13 vaccine in 4 shots: at 2nd, 4th, 6th and 12-15th month [4].

Healthy adults after 65 years of age should get

A booster PPSV23 vaccine is recommended 5 years after the initial vaccination for both children and adults younger than 65 years of age who are at increased risk of pneumonia and for all individuals 65 years of older who initially received PCV13 vaccine [4,9].

Who should not get vaccinated?

Anyone with acute disease or previous severe allergic reaction to the pneumococcal vaccine or any of its components or any vaccine containing diphtheria toxoid should not get the PCV13 or PPSV23 vaccine [5,8].

How effective are pneumococcal vaccines?

PCV13 was 45% effective in preventing pneumococcal pneumonia in one study in adults 65 years or older [6]. According to the same study, the PPSV23 vaccine was 50-85% effective in preventing “invasive pneumococcal disease” in healthy adults [6], but it may be less effective in those with underlying chronic diseases [4].

Are PCV13 and PPSV23 vaccines safe?

PCV13 and PPSV23 vaccines are safe for healthy individuals including pregnant women and also for individuals with asthma and multiple sclerosis [4,5].

What are side effects of pneumococcal vaccine?

Side effects of PCV13 or PPSV23 vaccine can include drowsiness, loss of appetite, local pain and swelling, mild fever, headache, fatigue, allergic reaction (hives, difficulty breathing) or, very rarely, death [7].

PCV13 and PPSV23 vaccine do not cause pneumonia [5].

How much does a pneumococcal vaccine cost?

In the United States, most insurance policies cover the cost of pneumococcal vaccines.

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