The Pneumococcal Vaccine
- Posted by Lele M
- On 10/08/2018
- pneumococcal vaccine
What is Pneumococcal disease?
Pneumococci are a family of bacteria, otherwise known as Streptococcus pneumoniae, which are a common cause of chest, ear, sinus and other infections. There are many different subtypes (known as serotypes) and not all of them are harmful to people. The most serious forms of pneumococcal infection in adults are serious lung infections such as pneumonia, which can be fatal, particularly in people with chronic health conditions or the elderly. In young children it can cause meningitis, blood infection (septicaemia), pneumonia and ear infections.
How do you get it?
Many people are silent carriers, but the bacteria can be spread to others though coughing, sneezing, kissing or other close contact. Bacterial infections often follow upper respiratory infections such as colds and influenza. This is more common in people with heart or respiratory disease, including asthma, chronic diseases which may affect the immune system, including diabetes and liver disease, in smokers and in older people. Adults are often infected by young children.
Who is already vaccinated against it?
In New Zealand, babies are routinely vaccinated against 10 serotypes of pneumococci. This vaccination was introduced for high risk babies in 2006, and more widely in 2008, and has led to significant reductions in these diseases amongst young children – see tables below. The current vaccine is called Synflorix, but other brands such as Prevenar have been used at different times.
Who should be vaccinated against it?
It is recommended that adults with a wide range chronic medical conditions, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease and diabetes, and those over the age of 65, be vaccinated against pneumococcal disease. However, in New Zealand, immunisation is only funded for those with a few specific conditions: cochlear implant, complement deficiency, functional asplenia, HIV-positive, post-haematopoietic stem cell transplantation, post-chemotherapy, pre- or post-splenectomy/solid organ transplantation, primary immunodeficiency, and renal dialysis patients.
People who are not eligible for the funded vaccine can choose to pay for it privately. In many countries overseas, this vaccine is routinely offered to those with chronic medical conditions and older adults, but in New Zealand many patients are unaware that such a vaccine even exists.
Are there any side-effects?
The most common side-effect of all pneumococcal vaccines is discomfort, heaviness or soreness at the injection site (upper arm) for a few hours. More serious side-effects are rare, but these would be discussed with you at the screening visit.
Are there different types of vaccines?
The most commonly used vaccine in adults in NZ is called PNEUMOVAX® 23, a polysaccharide vaccine (23PPV). This is given as a single injection, and gives protection for up to five years from 23 different serotypes of pneumococcal bacterial. Its effectiveness is only 50-70%. It is available from GP and usually costs $70-90.
More effective vaccines are available in NZ, called Synflorix (PCV10) and Prevenar 13 (PCV13). These are called conjugate vaccines, and are the ones given to babies. They are significantly more expensive than the polysaccharide vaccine, ($220-250) but they are more effective and give longer duration of protection.
The current Gold Standard regime for adults is to receive Prevenar 13 followed by Pneumovax 23, at least 8 weeks later, with another dose of Pneumovax 23 after five years in younger people. This is the best way to get maximum protection from these bacteria.
How can I find out about new research into vaccines?
You can find out about vaccine research as well as any other trials currently being run at P3 Research by visiting our Current Studies page, or by contacting our friendly nurses and researchers on (04) 801 0002 or 0800 P3 STUDY. Alternatively, you can email us at email@example.com to find out if you are eligible to participate in any of our current studies.
For more information on prevention of pneumococcal disease, see: