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What is it?

Pneumococcal disease is a name for any infection caused by bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae or pneumococcus.


Middle ear infections (otitis media)— pain; a red, swollen ear drum; or sometimes, fever or sleepiness

Pneumococcal pneumonia (lung infection) causes:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Rapid breathing or difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain

Pneumococcal meningitis (infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) causes:

  • Stiff neck or headache
  • High fever
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Confusion
  • In babies, may cause poor eating and drinking, low alertness, or vomiting

How does it spread?

When an infected person coughs or sneezes. Some children may not even feel sick, but they could have the bacteria in their noses and throats. These children can still spread pneumococcal disease.


There are two kinds of pneumococcal vaccines available in the United States:
Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine or PCV13
Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine or PPSV23

Four doses of PCV13 are recommended for children at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months and 12-15 months

CDC recommends PPSV23 for all adults 65 years or older, people 2 through 64 years old with certain medical conditions, and adults 19 through 64 years old who smoke cigarettes.

Pneumococcal disease can be very serious. Pneumococcal pneumonia causes an estimated 150,000 hospitalizations each year in the United States. Pneumococcal meningitis and bacteremia killed approximately 3,600 people in the United States in 2017.

Anyone can get pneumococcal disease, but some people are at greater risk for disease than others. Children and older adults are at increased risk compared to other age groups and should be vaccinated.