Worried About Pneumonia? Why the Vaccine Is Your Best Defense
The pneumococcal vaccine helps protect against the most common bacterial pneumonia. Learn more about who benefits most from the vaccine.
Every year, your doctor likely reminds you of the benefits of getting a flu shot. But there’s another vaccine you should discuss with your doctor — one that helps protect you from pneumonia.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
While not a seasonal vaccine or as widely prescribed as the flu shot, the pneumococcal vaccine helps protect those most at risk for serious pneumococcal infections that can lead to complications, a hospital stay or even death.
Pneumonia is an infection in one or both lungs that typically stems from several kinds of germs, most often bacteria and viruses.
Symptoms can develop gradually or suddenly. They include:
Early detection is often challenging because many people with these symptoms assume they have a cold or the flu.
It’s important to also note that the vaccine helps protect against some — but not all — bacterial pneumonia.
“There are dozens of different types of bacterial pneumonia,” says Robert Kotloff, MD, Chairman of Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Pulmonary Medicine. “The vaccine will certainly reduce your risk of the most common bacterial pneumonia.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the pneumococcal vaccine for those who fall into the following groups:
The recommendations are sometimes confusing, so it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about your questions and concerns, Dr. Kotloff says.
And don’t wait to have that conversation. “This is an infection you see year-round,” he says.
There are two vaccines used in the United States:
Research shows that at least one dose of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine protects at least 8 out of 10 babies and 75 out of 100 adults (65 or older) from invasive pneumococcal disease. One dose of the second vaccine protects between 50 to 85 out of 100 healthy adults against invasive pneumococcal disease.
Just as with a flu shot, some people believe that getting a pneumococcal vaccine will cause them to come down with the disease.
“This is absolutely not true,” Dr. Kotloff says.
Not only will the pneumococcal vaccine help reduce the risk of contracting certain types of bacterial pneumonia, it also guards against serious consequences resulting from the flu and severe infections, such as sepsis.
For young children, older adults, smokers and those with other risk factors, the vaccine is a healthy choice to make.
“I can’t see any reason to avoid this vaccine and every reason to get it,” Dr. Kotloff says.