Pneumococcal Vaccination

Why do we need a pneumonia vaccine if we had the flu vaccination this year? Pneumonia is just like the flu, right? Many people believe the influenza and pneumococcal vaccinations are the same or at least similar, so why are both needed?   

The flu is a respiratory illness caused by a virus. The virus rapidly mutates so each year a new vaccination is needed to ensure we are protected.

Whereas pneumonia is caused by a bacterial infection that affects the lungs. The pneumococcal vaccination can be one injection or a series of between 2-4 injections which provides immunity for 5 to 10 years and in some cases lifelong immunity.   

Currently, there are four different pneumococcal vaccinations: Prevnar 13, Prevnar 15, Prevnar 20 and Pneumococcal 23.
The number behind each name is how many strains of bacteria the vaccination helps protect us against. pneumococcal infections are caused by a bacterium called Streptococcus pneumoniae. This bacterium can cause illnesses that range from mild to severe. There are more than 90 different strains of, known as serotypes, some of which cause more serious infections than others. The symptoms vary depending on the type of infection but the most common symptoms include headache, body aches and a high fever. Pneumococcal infections usually fall into one of two categories:

Studies have shown that the vaccination is 96% effective in children and 80% effective in adults. Aside from getting the pneumococcal vaccine, we can protect ourselves against pneumonia by getting a yearly flu vaccination, practicing good hand hygiene, wiping down commonly touched surfaces, eating healthy, and keeping your immune system strong.


Miller, K. (2020, December 7). Do I Need a Pneumonia Vaccine? Web MD. Retrieved January 5, 2023,  from  

Pneumococcal Vaccines. (2022, July 26).  Retrieved January 5, 2023, from   

Pneumonia. Mayo Clinic. (2020, June 13).  Retrieved January 5, 2023, from  

Pneumonia is anon-invasive infection that affects an estimated one million people annually. Symptoms can include fever, shaking, chills, chest pain, shortness of breath, rapid heart rate and generalized weakness. Most people diagnosed with Pneumonia respond well to treatment and fully recover within a week or two.  

Approximately 25-30% patients that are diagnosed with Pneumonia also have a secondary infection such as bacteremia (blood infection). Pneumonia-bacteremia, is considered an invasive infection, which is more serious and has a mortality rate of 20-60%. Sadly 70% of invasive diseases in children less than two years old is caused by Pneumonia-Bacteremia. Pneumonia is also the cause of more than half of the cases of bacterial meningitis diagnosed annually. The fatality rate of pneumococcal meningitis is 8% among children and 22% among adults. The majority of the patients who survive suffer from irreversible neurological damage, which may include loss of hearing, inability to speak, cognitive changes, behavioral changes and memory loss. They may need long term therapy, medication and supportive care.   

When it comes to taking medication, having a medical procedure or agreeing to a vaccination, we need to understand both the benefits and the risks. The benefit of receiving the pneumococcal vaccination is you are protecting yourself against bacteria serotypes that can cause severe illness and/or death. The risks are that you may have mild soreness and/or redness at the injection site, a low-grade temperature and possibly a headache.    

The vaccination that is administered is based on the patient’s age, vaccination history and current medical status. The types are: