Pneumococcal Disease

About the vaccine

Vaccination is the best way to protect against pneumococcal infection, a serious and sometimes fatal disease. 

Vaccines are very safe. It is much safer to get the vaccine than to get pneumococcal disease.

There are two types of vaccines that protect against either 13 or 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria.

Pneumococcal Conjugate (PCV 13) Vaccine:

In June of 2010, the PCV 13 vaccine replaced the PCV 7 vaccine which had been used in BC since 2003. The PCV 13 vaccine protects against 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria.

The pneumococcal conjugate (PCV 13) vaccine is free for children as part of their routine immunizations.  Children get the 1st dose at 2 months of age, the 2nd at 4 months, and the 3rd at 12 months.

An extra dose of vaccine is given at 6 months of age for children who have

  • No spleen, or a spleen that is not working properly
  • Sickle-cell disease
  • An immune system weakened by disease or medical treatment
  • Chronic liver disease, including cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis B or hepatitis C
  • Chronic kidney, heart or lung disease
  • An islet cell or solid organ transplant, or a cochlear (inner ear) implant, or are waiting for one
  • Had a stem cell transplant
  • A condition that makes it hard to clear fluids from the mouth or throat
  • Diabetes, cystic fibrosis or a chronic cerebrospinal fluid leak

Children under 5 years of age with any of the above medical conditions who completed a PCV 7 vaccine series should also receive 1 dose of PCV 13 vaccine.

Some people 5 years of age and older with certain medical conditions are at high risk of pneumococcal disease. The PCV13 vaccine is provided free to:

  • Children 5 to 18 years of age with no spleen, or a spleen that is not working properly
  • Adults and children 5 years of age and older with HIV infection or who have had a stem cell transplant

For more information about the PCV 13 vaccine, including the benefits, possible reactions after the vaccine and who should not get the vaccine, see the HealthLinkBC File: Pneumococcal Conjugate (PCV 13) Vaccine.

Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine:

The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine protects against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria.  This vaccine is not part of the routine schedule of childhood immunizations. It is however provided free to people at high risk of getting sick from pneumococcal infections, including:

  • Seniors 65 years and older
  • Residents of any age living in residential care or assisted living facilities

The vaccine is also provided free to anyone who is 2 years of age and older with the following conditions:

  • No spleen, or a spleen that is not working properly
  • Sickle-cell disease
  • An immune systems weakened by disease or medical treatment
  • Chronic liver disease, including cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis B or hepatitis C
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic heart or lung disease
  • An islet cell or solid organ transplant, or a cochlear (inner ear) implant, or those who are waiting for one
  • A stem cell transplant
  • Diabetes, cystic fibrosis, or a chronic cerebrospinal fluid leak
  • An alcohol dependency
  • Homeless persons
  • Users of illicit drugs

A 2nd dose of vaccine is recommended for people with certain medical conditions. Speak with your health care provider to find out if you need a 2nd dose of vaccine and when you should get it.

For more information about the vaccine, the benefits, possible reactions after the vaccine and who should not get the vaccine, see the HealthLinkBC File: Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine

About the disease

  • Pneumococcal infection is caused by a germ (or bacteria) which can attack different parts of the body
  • Pneumococcal infections can cause serious and life-threatening infections including meningitis, (an infection of the lining that covers the brain), and septicemia, an infection of the blood
  • For every 4 children who get sick with pneumococcal meningitis, 1may die 
  • Pneumococcus is spread by coughing, sneezing, or contact with respiratory secretions
  • Pneumococcal disease is now rare in BC because of routine childhood vaccination programs
  • There is now less childhood pneumococcal disease in BC because of routine childhood vaccinations programs

Photo courtesy of Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. More vaccine preventable disease images