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How often do I need to get the pneumonia vaccine?

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The pneumonia vaccine – also known as the pneumococcal vaccine – offers protection against several strains of bacteria that can cause pneumonia. There are two types of the vaccine, one of which is specifically designed for adults over the age of 65 and anyone particularly high-risk because of a long-term health condition. The other vaccine Prevnar 13 is available in our stores for adults aged 18 and over.* 

Most adults getting the pneumonia vaccine will only need to get it once. Others who are high risk may need to get booster jabs every few years. If you’ve never had the pneumonia vaccine, and you think you could benefit, you should check to see if you’re eligible for it on the NHS. If not, you can book yours with us and have it administered at your local LloydsPharmacy.

What is the pneumococcal vaccine?

The pneumococcal vaccine, or pneumonia vaccine, is a vaccination that protects against severe pneumococcal infections. These infections are caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria and can be serious or sometimes fatal. The most common is pneumonia however they also include blood poisoning (sepsis) and meningitis.

What does the pneumonia vaccine do?

Pneumonia is a serious condition that attacks the lungs, causing coughing, fever, and difficulty breathing. It often requires hospitalisation, and can be life-threatening – especially for the elderly or for people with weakened immune systems.

Pneumonia symptoms can be caused by viruses and fungi, but it’s usually caused by a bacterial infection. This is why both types of the pneumonia vaccine work by generating antibodies to kill pneumococcal bacteria. Once you’ve had the vaccine, your body will be able to use these antibodies to quickly fight off the bacteria strains that cause pneumonia.

Why is it important to get the pneumonia vaccine?

The pneumococcal vaccine is an important vaccination that can lower your chances of catching various infections including:

  • Meningitis
  • Severe ear infections
  • Pneumonia caused by pneumococcal bacteria

Types of pneumonia vaccine

There are two types of pneumonia vaccine that can cause different side effects:

Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), also known as Prevenar 13 Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV), also known as Pneumovax 23
Offers protection against 13 strains of pneumococcal bacteria Protection against 23 strains of pneumococcal bacteria
Normally given to young children as part of their routine NHS vaccinations. It’s also available for adults under 65 through our vaccination service This type is given to adults over 65 and anyone with a very high risk of pneumonia.

Side effects include:

  • A reduced appetite
  • Slight fever/raised temperature
  • Redness/swelling at the site of the injection
  • Fatigue

Side effects include:

  • Slight fever/raised temperature
  • Soreness or hardness at the site of the injection for 1 to 3 days

 

How long does the pneumonia vaccine last​?

For most adults, one dose of the pneumonia vaccine should last a lifetime. In other words, you won’t usually need to get another dose. This makes it different to the flu vaccine, which is given every year.

For some people, boosters of the pneumonia vaccine will be needed. This will be the case for people who have underlying health conditions that are at higher risk of pneumonia and related conditions. Your doctor will let you know if you need another vaccine.

If you’re somebody who needs “top-ups” of the pneumonia vaccine, you’ll be able to receive them for free on the NHS.

When is the pneumonia vaccine given?

The pneumonia vaccine is not the same as the flu vaccine, as it doesn’t need to be given at a certain time of year. Rather, it can be given at any time, as long as it’s safe for you to have it.

However, if you’re in a high-risk group for pneumonia, you should get the vaccine as soon as possible to make sure you’re protected.

You’ll be eligible for a free vaccine on the NHS if you:

  • Are aged 65 or over
  • Have a health condition that increases your risk of pneumonia e.g. HIV, chronic kidney or liver disease
  • Work in a job that increases your risk of pneumonia e.g. welding

Babies and young children are also considered a high-risk group, which is why they receive the pneumonia vaccine as part of their routine vaccinations.

You’ll find a full list of people who should get the pneumonia vaccine.

Book your pneumonia jab

When are boosters of the pneumonia vaccine given?

Most people only need one dose of the pneumonia vaccine. However, you might need boosters if your spleen or kidneys don’t work properly. If you are somebody who needs boosters, your GP will let you know.

Normally, boosters are given every five years.

Can the pneumonia vaccine be given with the flu vaccine?

The pneumonia vaccine and flu vaccine can’t be combined into a single injection. You can have them at the same time, or your GP may request that you have the injections at separate times for specific clinical reasons. There’s no reason not to get them around the same time.

At LloydsPharmacy, we offer the Prevenar 13 vaccine for pneumonia, and the annual flu jab. Both can be booked by people over 18 who aren’t eligible for a free vaccine on the NHS. We can also offer free flu jabs to certain at-risk groups, as part of the NHS programme.

The pneumonia vaccine is a safe and recommended vaccination that is often given to children under 2. It lasts a lifetime, so you’ll only need a booster if you have an underlying health condition.

If you're worried about the pain associated with a vaccine jab, Emla cream can be used to numb the skin before the injection. Read our advice on how to overcome a needle phobia.

References

*Dependent on pharmacist assessment.

www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/pneumococcal-vaccination
www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/when-is-pneumococcal-vaccine-needed