The pneumonia (pneumococcal) vaccine is a safe and effective way to protect you against severe and potentially fatal infections.
What is the pneumococcal virus?
Pneumococcal infections are bacterial infections caused by streptococcus pneumoniae and can lead to severe lung, brain and blood infections such as pneumonia, meningitis and septicemia. It can affect people of all ages, but babies, the over 65s and those living with a chronic health condition are particularly vulnerable.
The Pneumonia Vaccine
There are two types of pneumonia vaccine. Which one you are given depends on your age and health.
- Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) is used to vaccinate children under two years as part of the national childhood immunisation schedule
- Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV) is given to people aged 65 and over. It is also given to people over the age of two years who are considered high-risk due to chronic health conditions. It’s thought not to work in children under the age of two.
Both vaccines encourage your body to produce antibodies against pneumococcal bacteria. Antibodies are proteins produced by your body to destroy disease and infection. They protect you from becoming ill if you are infected with pneumococcal bacteria.
Who should get the vaccine?
A pneumococcal infection can affect anyone. Babies, the over 65s and people living with a chronic health condition are particularly vulnerable to the infection.
Babies are routinely vaccinated for pneumococcal disease as part of their childhood immunisation schedule. They have three injections of the PVC vaccine at:
- 2 months
- 6 months
- 12 months
For more information on early childhood vaccinations for your children, please go to the Children’s Health.
Link childhood immunisation schedule to childhood immunisation schedule in children’s health
Link children’s health to children’s health
The HSE recommend adults over 65 avails of the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV). This is a once-off vaccination, which will protect you from the infection for life. If you were vaccinated against pneumococcal disease when under the age of 65 years, it is recommended that you vaccinate again when you are over 65 years old, for full protection against the disease.
People living with chronic health conditions
The HSE suggest that children over two years and adults under 65 years should avail of the pneumonia vaccine if they have any of the following
- Asplenia or splenic dysfunction (including surgical splenectomy, sickle cell disease and coeliac disease)
- Candidates for, or recipients of, a cochlear implant
- Children under five years of age with a history of an invasive pneumococcal disease, irrespective of vaccine history.
- Chronic renal disease or nephrotic syndrome
- Chronic heart, lung, or liver disease
- Complement deficiency (particularly early component deficiencies C1, C2, C3, C4)
- CSF leaks either congenital or complicating skull fracture or neurosurgery
- Diabetes mellitus
- Immunosuppressive conditions (e.g. some B- and T-cell disorders, HIV infection, leukaemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease) and those receiving immunosuppressive therapies.
- Intracranial shunt
- Post haematopoietic stem cell transplant
- Organ transplant
The HSE do not recommend the pneumonia vaccine for
- Young healthy adults, as there is little risk of pneumococcal infection.
- People with a history of anaphylaxis to any of the ingredients in the vaccine.
- People who have a high fever (Please defer until after recovery).
- Pregnant women – although it is thought to be safe to have the pneumonia vaccine during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, many women like to wait until after they have had their baby. The vaccine can be given if there is an urgent need for protection.
Side-effects of the Pneumonia Vaccine
Like most vaccines, you may experience some mild side-effects including:
- a mild fever
- redness, itching, pain, hardness and swelling around the site of injection
- muscle ache, headache, and
- feeling tired.
Aside from an extremely small risk of serious allergic reaction, there are no serious side-effects associated with either type of the pneumonia vaccination. The side-effects usually pass within a few hours.
How much does it cost?
The PCV vaccine and its administration are free for all children under the childhood immunisation schedule.
The PPV vaccine and its administration are free for adults and children in high-risk groups who are covered under the Medical Card or GP Visit Card Schemes.
For private patients who are in high-risk groups, the PPV vaccine itself is free, but the administration of the vaccination is €30.
The PPV vaccine is not recommended routinely for patients, not in high-risk groups.
HSE – Pneumococcal vaccine
NHS Choices – Pneumococcal vaccine