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PPV - Pneumonia Vaccine

Overview & Description

The pneumonia vaccine is given to children or adults at high risk for pneumococcal disease, including pneumonia. Pneumococcal disease is caused by certain bacteria that live in the nose, sinuses, ears, and throat. Anyone can get pneumococcal disease, but most healthy people do not get severely ill or die from it.

The pneumonia vaccine protects against discomforts and serious, sometimes fatal, complications that can occur when the bacteria spread in the body, such as:

  • ear infections, known as acute otitis media
  • pneumonia
  • bacteremia, a serious blood infection
  • meningitis, an inflammation of the covering of the brain and spinal cord
  • Who is a candidate for the procedure?

    The U.S. government recommends the vaccine for:

  • all people 65 years or older
  • adults and children with chronic lung or heart problems, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD
  • people treated in the last year for cystic fibrosis, kidney disease, anemia, severe asthma, or chronic metabolic illnesses, such as diabetes
  • people with weak immune systems, such as those on chemotherapy or a persons who are HIV-positive
  • residents of a skilled nursing facility or extended care facility
  • Alaskan natives and some Native American peoples
  • A pregnant woman should discuss the risks and benefits of the vaccine with her healthcare provider.

    How is the procedure performed?

    A shot is given into the muscle of the upper thigh or arm. Usually one shot is enough. Occasionally a second shot is recommended at a 6-year interval for people with certain chronic conditions:

    Preparation & Expectations

    What happens right after the procedure?

    There may be tenderness at the site of the shot. A bandage is usually applied to stop any bleeding.

    Home Care and Complications

    What happens later at home?

    This vaccine is very safe. Severe allergic reactions are very rare. It is important to seek emergency medical care immediately if a person:

  • is having trouble breathing, or shortness of breath
  • has hives
  • has a rapid heartbeat, pale skin, or other signs of anaphylactic shock
  • What are the potential complications after the procedure?

    Pneumococcal disease is far more likely than the vaccine to cause serious problems for people who are at high risk for it.

  • Mild side effects may include redness, pain, and swelling at the site of the shot for 1 to 2 days.
  • Rarely, fever, muscle pains, or another reaction at the site of the shot occur.
  • Very rarely, a severe allergic reaction or even death can occur.

  • Attribution

    Author:Francesca Coltrera, BA
    Date Written:
    Editor:Keefe, Sandy, RN, MSN
    Edit Date:08/14/00
    Reviewer:Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
    Date Reviewed:07/27/01


    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Immunization Program. "How do vaccines work?" Last updated 3/28/00.

    Centers for Disease Control, National Vaccine Program Office. "The effectiveness of immunizations." Last updated 3/8/2000.

    Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). "Prevention of Pneumococcal Disease." MMWR, April 4, 1997; vol. 46, no. RR-8.

    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Immunization Program. Vaccine information statement "Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine," 7/29/97.