Pneumococcal Disease

Pneumococcal disease is a name for any infection caused by bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae or pneumococcus.

Some examples of diseases that caused by the Pneumococcal bacteria are:

  • Pneumonia
  • Ear infections
  • Sinus infections
  • Meningitis (infection of the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord)
  • Bacteremia (bloodstream infection)

Symptoms of pneumococcal disease vary depending on the infected organ. It can range from low-grade fever, cough, ear ache and chest pain, to more serious symptoms such as confusion or severe headaches.

Pneumococcal bacteria spread from person-to-person by direct contact with respiratory secretions, such as saliva or mucus.

Infection can occur when infected individuals contaminated common surfaces, e.g. tables, doors, lift buttons; or when sharing eating utensils with healthy individuals, causing them to contract the disease.

There are 2 types of pneumococcal vaccines available:
  1. Pneumococcal Conjugate vaccine (PCV13)
  2. Pneumococcal Polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23)

PCV13 protects against 13 pneumococcal bacteria strains that most commonly cause pneumococcal disease, while the PPSV23 protects against 23 strains. PCV13 when given before PPSV23, provides an extended protection in a selected group of patients, as compared to giving PPSV23 alone.

People at high risk of developing serious complications and death from invasive pneumococcal disease should receive the vaccine – this includes infants and the elderly, as well as those with pre-existing or chronic conditions that increase their risk of infection.

Allinfants should receive two doses of PCV13 within the first 6 months (at 3 and 5 months) and a booster at 12 months. You may refer to the Singapore National Childhood Immunisation Schedule (NCIS) or speak to your child’s doctor for more information.

Elderly aged 65 and above are also recommended to receive one dose each of PCV13 and PPSV23.

Adults who have chronic illnesses and those who are immunocompromised should also speak to your doctor about getting the vaccine.

Pneumococcal vaccination is generally safe and the majority of people who receive the vaccine experience little to no side effects.
Side effects, even if they do occur, are generally minor and transient. Possible side effects that can occur include:
  • Low grade fever
  • Injection site mild redness, pain or swelling
  • Allergy (very rare)