Pneumococcal Disease: Adult Vaccines

If you have any queries or concerns about vaccines please contact your GP or local health office

 

What is pneumococcal disease?

Pneumococcal disease is an infection caused by the bacteria (bug) Streptococcus pneumoniae.
It can lead to pneumonia, septicaemia (a type of blood poisoning) and meningitis which can be life-threatening.

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How do I get pneumococcal disease?

Pneumococcal bacteria are spread from person to person by coughing, sneezing or close contact.
The bacteria can be carried in the nose and throat without doing any harm but sometimes they can invade the lungs and bloodstream causing pneumonia, septicaemia and meningitis.

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How serious is pneumococcal disease?

Pneumococcal disease is a very serious disease. It is a major cause of illness and death, particularly amongst the very young, the very old and those with no spleen or impaired immunity. It is a major cause of pneumonia in the community.

Also causes

  • Meningitis (inflammation of the lining around the brain),
  • Sinusitis
  • Osteomyelitis (inflammation of a bone)
  • Bronchitis
  • Ear infection
  • Blood stream infection (Bacteraemia)

Over the years Streptococcus pneumoniae has become resistant to many medications making the treatment of pneumococcal infections much more difficult. Prevention of disease through vaccination is now more important than ever.

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Who is at risk of pneumococcal disease?

Everybody is at risk of getting pneumococcal disease but older people and very young children are most at risk from infection. Particularly at risk are people who are have long term medical conditionshave no spleen or have a weakened immune system;

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How can pneumococcal disease be prevented?

Pneumococcal disease can be prevented by vaccination.

Over the years Streptococcus pneumoniae has become resistant to many medications making the treatment of pneumococcal infections much more difficult. Prevention of disease through vaccination is now more important than ever.

Vaccination is recommended for those at risk of the disease.

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Which pneumococcal vaccines are recommended in Ireland?

There are two different pneumococcal vaccines to prevent pneumococcal infections

  • Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) which is given to all babies as part of the routine childhood immunisation schedule
  • Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV23) which is for those aged 65 years and older and those over 2 years with long term medical conditions. This vaccine protects against 23 types of pneumococcal disease including those most likely to cause severe disease.

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Who should be vaccinated with PPV23 Pneumococcal vaccine?

Pneumococcal disease is a very serious disease. It is a major cause of illness and death, particularly amongst the very young. Those with the following conditions should be vaccinated with PPV23.

Everybody aged 65 years and over and everybody aged 2 years and over with ;

  • Diabetes
  • Chronic lung, heart, liver, or kidney disease
  • Chronic neurological disease
  • Children aged over 2 years and under 5 years of age with a history of invasive pneumococcal disease
  • Coeliac disease
  • Down Syndrome
  • Cochlear implants or are about to get cochlear implants
  • Immune deficiency because of a disease or treatment, including cancer patients
  • HIV infection
  • Absent spleen or a non-functioning spleen
  • CSF leaks, either congenital or complicating skull fractures or neurosurgery
  • Intracranial shunt.

PPV23 vaccination is not recommended for healthy children and adults as they are at low risk of pneumococcal disease

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Who should not receive the PPV23 Pneumococcal vaccine?

The PPV23 vaccine is safe for most people. However, you should not get this vaccine if you have had a true
severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to a previous dose of PPV23 vaccine or to any part of the vaccine.

If you are unwell, with a fever, vaccination should be delayed until you are better.

This PPV23 vaccine is not recommended for children under two years of age as it does not work well in this age group.

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What are the potential side effects of the PPV23 pneumococcal vaccine?

The pneumococcal vaccine can sometimes cause mild side effects.

The most common side effects are pain, redness and swelling at the place where the injection was given. Headache tiredness, and muscle aches can sometimes happen.

The serious side effect of a severe allergic reaction is very rare.

No other serious side effects have been reported for the vaccine.

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Is it possible to get the disease from the PPV23 pneumococcal vaccine?

No, you cannot get pneumococcal disease from the vaccine as it does not contain live bacteria.

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Can you get the PPV23 pneumococcal vaccine the same time as the flu vaccine?

Yes. PPV Pneumococcal vaccine may be given at the same time as influenza vaccine. Your doctor may safely give the two vaccines when you attend for your influenza vaccine.

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How do I get vaccinated? 

You should speak to your doctor, practice nurse or pharmacist about the pneumococcal vaccine (PPV23).

The pneumococcal vaccine (PPV23) is free if you are 65 years or older, or if you are in an at-risk group.

If you have a medical card or “GP visit card”, the vaccine and consultation are free.

If you do not have a medical card or “GP visit card”, the vaccine is free but you will be charged a consultation fee.

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Information Materials 

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Where can I find out more?

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This page was updated on 21 September 2019