There are three groups of people who need to be vaccinated against pneumococcal infections.
Children under two years of age
Children are vaccinated with the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) as part of their childhood vaccination programme. The programme consists of three injections that are usually given at:
two months of age
four months of age
13 months of age
For more information about the childhood vaccination schedule, see the Vaccination checklist.
If a child under five years of age who is at high risk (see high risk groups, below) does not complete the course of childhood vaccinations, it may be recommended that they have either a single or double dose of the PCV.
Adults aged 65 or over
If you are 65 years of age or over you will need to have the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV). This one-off vaccination will protect you against serious forms of pneumococcal infection.
High risk groups
It is recommended that children and adults who are 2-64 years of age should have the PPV if they are at higher risk of developing a pneumococcal infection than the general population. Children up to five years of age who are at high risk may also need to have the PCV.
You may be at a higher risk if you have:
had your spleen (an organ that helps filter your blood) removed, or your spleen does not work properly
chronic (long-term) respiratory disease, for example, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (the name for a collection of lung diseases that make it difficult to breathe)
chronic heart disease, for example, congenital heart disease (a birth defect that affects the heart)
chronic kidney disease, for example, nephrotic syndrome (when protein leaks from the blood into your urine)
chronic liver disease, for example, liver cirrhosis (when healthy tissue in the liver is destroyed and replaced by scar tissue)
diabetes (a long-term condition that is caused by too much glucose in the blood) that requires insulin or other medications to lower blood sugar levels
a suppressed immune system (the body’s defence system) caused by a health condition, such as HIV
a suppressed immune system caused by medication such as chemotherapy (a cancer treatment) or steroids (medication that contains powerful chemicals called hormones)
a cochlear implant (a small hearing device that can be fitted inside your ear if you have a hearing impairment)
had cerebrospinal fluid (CSF: the clear fluid that surrounds the brain and spine) leaking from its usual position, for example, as the result of an accident or surgery
If you are at increased risk of a pneumococcal infection you will be given the PPV just once. In most adults, this is enough to provide protection for life.
However, if your spleen does not work properly, or if you have a chronic kidney condition, you may need booster doses of PPV every five years. This is because your levels of antibodies (proteins that destroy disease-carrying organisms) against the infection will decrease over time.
If you or your child has missed a dose of either of the pneumococcal vaccines, it will be assumed that you or your child has not been fully vaccinated. You should speak to your doctor about completing the vaccination programme.
If your child is under one year of age and has missed a dose of the PCV vaccine, they should receive the remaining doses that they need with two months between each dose.
If your child is over one and under two years of age and has missed a dose of the PCV vaccine, they should be given a single dose of the PCV vaccine.
If your child is over two and under five years of age and has missed a dose of the PCV vaccine, they may need a single dose of the PCV vaccine. However, this may only be recommended if your child is at high risk (see high risk groups above). Speak to your doctor for further advice.