What is pneumonia?
Pneumonia is an infection that causes the lungs to fill with fluid. Bacteria, viruses, or fungi can cause it. Bacterial and viral pneumonia can be spread from person to person.
Common causes of pneumonia include:
- Viral: Having the flu or a cold
- Viral: RSV virus (the most common cause of pneumonia in babies)
- Bacterial: Streptococcus pneumoniae and Mycoplasma pneumoniae
Pneumonia makes it hard to breathe and get enough oxygen in the bloodstream. Symptoms of pneumonia include
- Coughing, sometimes with phlegm or pus
- Shortness of breath or wheezing
- Fever and/or chills
- Difficulty breathing
- Sharp pain in the chest when you breathe or cough
Newborns may not show any of the above symptoms but might vomit or be restless or tired.
Anyone can get pneumonia, but infants under two and people over 65 are at higher risk.
What are the risks of pneumonia?
Streptococcus pneumoniae (the bacteria that the pneumonia vaccine is built to help the body fight) can cause a range of complications, from mild to very serious. This bacterium can cause ear infections as well as serious blood infections. Severe complications include:
- Bacteremia (bacterial blood infection)
- Septic shock (caused by bacteremia)
- Lung abscesses
- A buildup of fluid between the tissues that line the lungs and the chest (pleurisy)
- Kidney or respiratory failure
How effective are the pneumonia vaccines?
There are two kinds of pneumonia vaccine:
- Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13). Complications from invasive pneumococcal disease include meningitis. PCV13 vaccine is about 75.0% effective against invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) which can cause meningitis
- Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23). Complications from invasive pneumococcal disease include meningitis. PPSV23 vaccine is for people 65+ years of age or people with chronic illnesses. It is 60%–80% effective against invasive pneumococcal disease when given to healthy people but less effective in immunocompromised people.
How safe is the pneumonia vaccine?
- Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13): The PCV13 vaccine is very safe: common side effects are mild and usually only last 1 – 2 days. They include drowsiness, loss of appetite, soreness or swelling where the vaccine was given, fever, and headache.
- Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23): The PPSV23 vaccine is extremely safe, and serious side effects are very rare. About half of the people who get PPSV23 have mild side effects (redness or pain where the vaccine is given). Less than 1% develop a fever, muscle aches, or more severe local reactions.
When should my family get the pneumonia vaccine?
- Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13): for children under 2 and those with certain medical conditions.
- Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23): All adults 65+ years of age, people under 65 years of age with certain medical conditions, or who smoke.
Talk to your healthcare provider about what vaccines your family needs.
What can I expect at a pneumonia vaccine appointment?
A little research before your visit can go a long way to reducing your stress and concerns. Credible information helps ensure healthy choices and builds vaccine confidence.