Pneumococcal vaccine

Pneumococcal immunisation is available in Scotland for all people with a health condition or aged 65 years and over, as well as babies.


What is pneumococcal infection?

This infection is caused by pneumococcal bacteria. It can cause serious illness, such as pneumonia and meningitis.


How is pneumococcal infection spread?

Some adults and up to 60% of children carry pneumococcal bacteria in the backof their nose and throat, and can pass them around by coughing, sneezing and close contact. Usually this doesn’t result in serious illness.


Why should I worry about pneumococcal infection?

Pneumococcal infection can cause bronchitis, ear and sinus infections, life-threatening infection of the blood (septicaemia), meningitis and pneumonia (which can also be life-threatening). Children under 2 years of age, people aged 65 or over, and children and adults with certain health conditions have a higher chance of becoming unwell with pneumococcal infection. People aged 65 or over are more likely to suffer serious long-term health problems from pneumococcal infection, and can even die.


How serious is pneumococcal meningitis?

About 85% of people who get pneumococcal meningitis recover, usually without any long-term problems. However, survivors of pneumococcal meningitis are more likely to develop complications than survivors of other bacterial causes of meningitis. These complications include deafness, seizures and long-term brain damage.


Why shouldn’t everyone have the pneumococcal vaccine?

Not everyone is at high risk of developing serious illness. The maximum risk is in those aged 65 or over, and those under 65 with any of the serious medical conditions listed on pages 4 and 5. Children under 2 years of age are also at increased risk.


How effective is the vaccine?

Getting the vaccine is the best way to help protect yourself against infections caused by the most common types of pneumococcal bacteria. It doesn’t protect you against infections caused by all pneumococcal bacteria, so it’s important you know the signs and symptoms. 


Are there any possible side effects?

Any reactions are generally minor and disappear within a few days. The vaccine does not contain live bacteria and cannot cause an infection.


How safe is the vaccine?

Before they are allowed to be used, all medicines (including vaccines) are tested to assess their safety and effectiveness. Once they have been licensed for use, their safety continues to be monitored. Where can I get more information? You can also talk to your practice nurse or GP,or call the NHS inform helpline on 0800 2244 88 (textphone 18001 0800 22 44 88). The helpline is open every day and also provides an interpreting service.


Report side effects

You can report suspected side effects of vaccines and medicines by visiting or by calling the Yellow Card hotline on 0808 100 3352.


If you think you could be eligible for the pneumococcal vaccine, speak to your GP or practice nurse and arrange an appointment.

Last reviewed on 08 September 2017

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