There are four groups of people who are advised to get vaccinated against pneumococcal infections:
- people aged 65 and over
- anyone from the ages of 2 to 65 with a long-term health condition
- anyone at occupational risk, such as welders
Babies and the pneumococcal vaccine
Babies are routinely vaccinated with the a type of pneumo jab known as the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) as part of the childhood vaccination programme. They have three injections, which are usually given at:
- 8 weeks old
- 16 weeks old
- One year old
Adults aged 65 or over and the pneumococcal vaccine
If you are 65 or over, you will be offered a type of pneumo jab known as the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV). This one-off vaccination is very effective at protecting you against serious forms of pneumococcal infection.
People with long-term health problems and the pneumococcal vaccine
The PPV pneumo jab is available on the NHS for children and adults aged from 2 to 64 years old who are at a higher risk of developing a pneumococcal infection than the general population.
This is generally the same people who are eligible for annual flu vaccination.
Children up to five years old may also need the PCV (because the PPV injection doesn't always work in young children).
You're considered to be at a higher risk of a pneumococcal infection if you have:
- had your spleen removed, your spleen does not work properly or if you are at risk of your spleen not working properly in future (for example if you have coeliac disease)
- a long-term respiratory disease, such as COPD
- heart disease, such as Congenital Heart Disease
- chronic kidney disease
- chronic liver disease, such as liver cirrhosis
- a suppressed immune system caused by a health condition such as HIV
- a suppressed immune system caused by medication such as chemotherapy or steroid tablets
- a cochlear implant (a small hearing device fitted inside your ear)
- had cerebrospinal fluid (the clear fluid that surrounds the brain and spine) leaking from its usual position – this could be due to an accident or surgery
Adults and children over the age of five who are severely immunocompromised (including anyone with leukaemia; multiple myeloma; genetic disorders affecting the immune system or after a bone marrow transplant) usually have a single dose of PCV followed by PPV.
Welders and metal workers and the pneumococcal vaccine
Some people with an occupational risk are advised to have the pneumococcal vaccine, including those who work with metal fumes, such as welders.
Booster doses of pneumococcal vaccine
If you are at increased risk of a pneumococcal infection, you will be given the PPV vaccination just once, and generally this will protect you 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 against the infection will decrease over time.
What to do if you miss a dose of pneumococcal vaccine
If you or your child has missed a routine dose of pneumococcal vaccine, speak to a nurse about when you can complete the course.
If your child is under the age of one and has missed a dose of the PCV vaccine, they can catch up on the remaining doses they need with two months between each dose.
If your child is over the age of one, but under two years old, and has missed a dose of the PCV vaccine, they will be given a single dose of the PCV vaccine.
If your child is over the age of two, but under five years old, 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 of pneumococcal infection.