Pneumococcal Vaccination

The Practice has a call and recall system for this immunisation programme. At present, the pneumococcal immunisation is recommended for:

  • those over 65 years of age
  • diabetics
  • heart patients
  • asthmatics
  • sickle cell
  • patients who would be more at risk from pneumococcal infection than usual as a result of their illness

People at increased risk of pneumococcal infection should be immunised

Pneumococcus is a bacterium (germ) which can cause pneumonia, meningitis and some other infections. Pneumonia caused by pneumococcus occurs in about 1 in 1000 adults each year. Pneumococcal infection can affect anybody. However, older people and some other groups of people are at increased risk of developing a pneumococcal infection.

Who should be immunised?

You should be immunised if you are in an 'at risk' group. That is, if you:

  • Are aged 65 or over
  • Do not have a spleen, or if your spleen does not work properly
  • Have a chronic (on-going) lung disease. For example: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, chronic bronchitis, asthma which requires regular use of inhaled steroids or steroid tablets (or if you have previously been admitted to hospital because of asthma), cystic fibrosis, interstitial lung fibrosis, pneumoconiosis, etc.
  • Are a child who has previously been admitted to hospital with a lower respiratory tract disease, such as pneumonia
  • Have a chronic heart disease. For example: if you require regular medication or follow-up for ischemic heart disease (angina, heart attacks, etc), congenital heart disease, chronic heart failure, hypertensive heart disease (not uncomplicated high blood pressure that is controlled with medication)
  • Have a serious chronic kidney disease. For example: nephrotic syndrome, kidney failure, or if you have had a kidney transplant
  • Have a chronic liver disease such as cirrhosis
  • Have diabetes which requires insulin or tablets to control it
  • Have a poor immune system. (For example, if you have no spleen, are taking chemotherapy or steroid treatment, if you have HIV/AIDS, etc.)
  • Have a cochlear implant
  • Have a CSF shunt (a shunt to drain the fluid that surrounds the brain)
  • Are a child under five years who has previously had a pneumococcal disease, such as pneumococcal meningitis or pneumococcal bacteraemia

Types of vaccine

There are two types of vaccine to protect against pneumococcal infection – the pneumococcal 23-valent polysaccharide vaccine and the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine. Both are given by injection. Both of these vaccines contain several components to protect against several types ('strains') of the pneumococcus. They differ in the number of types that they protect against. The vaccine given and the number of doses depend on your age.

The vaccines stimulate your body to make antibodies against pneumococcal bacteria. These antibodies protect you from illness should you become infected with pneumococcal bacteria. The vaccines protect against most (but not all) types of pneumococcus bacteria.

Are there any side-effects?

A pneumococcal immunisation usually causes no problems. Mild soreness and a lump at the injection site sometimes occurs. A mild fever may develop for a day or so. These side-effects are usually minor and soon go away.

Rarely, some people react badly to the vaccine. You will normally be asked by the doctor or nurse to wait several minutes after having the immunisation to make sure that you have not reacted. You should seek urgent medical advice if breathlessness, swelling, or a rash develops within a few days of immunisation, although this is very rare.

Who should not receive the pneumococcal immunisation?

  • If you are pregnant. The vaccine is thought to be safe during pregnancy but no research trials have proved this. Therefore, if possible, it is best to postpone the immunisation until after the baby is born
  • If you have had a severe reaction to a previous dose of pneumococcal vaccine

© EMIS and PIP 2004   Updated: September 2004   Review Date: October 2005   CHIQ Accredited