Pneumococcal Disease for Adults: Facts vs Myths




Fact or Myth

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Pneumococcal disease is the same thing as pneumonia.

Pneumonia is not very serious, so it's not worth getting vaccinated.

Even adults under 65 can get seriously ill from pneumococcal disease.

Pneumonia shots are only for children.



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This is a myth. Here's the fact:

This is a fact.


Pneumococcal disease is a group of diseases caused by the pneumococcus bacteria. Often it goes into the lungs, causing pneumonia, a lung infection that can be potentially life-threatening. But it can also go into places that don't normally have bacteria, such as the blood and the brain. This is called invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD). IPD can cause death, hospitalization, or serious complications such as blindness, deafness, seizures, or paralysis. Many adults are at risk of IPD, especially those who are 65 or older or who have lifestyle or medical risk factors, but there are vaccines that can help provide optimal protection against infection – see the Vaccine Options Table.

Sometimes pneumonia is mild, but pneumonia can also be very serious, causing admission to hospital, a stay in the intensive care unit (ICU), or even death. The pneumococcus bacteria is one of the most common causes of serious pneumonia. US estimates suggest that about 5% to 7% of people with serious pneumonia will die from it. Don't put it off – ask your doctor, pharmacist or nurse about the two recommended pneumococcal vaccines. To learn more about your vaccine options, see the Vaccine Options Table.

While it's true people 65 and older are more likely to get pneumococcal disease, adults younger than 65 can also get seriously ill from pneumococcal disease. Pneumococcal pneumonia, bloodstream infections, and meningitis can cause hospitalization and long-term problems such as blindness, deafness, seizures, or paralysis. Adults may be at risk of invasive pneumococcal disease (pneumococcal infection in places that don't normally have bacteria, such as the blood or brain) if they have one or more of these lifestyle or medical condition risk factors:

•  Lifestyle risk factors: smoking, alcoholism, homelessness, or living in long-term care
•  Some medical condition risk factors: chronic lung disease (including asthma and COPD), diabetes, chronic heart disease, chronic liver disease, chronic kidney disease, certain neurological conditions (those which make it harder to clear mucus and saliva from the throat), cochlear implants, cancer and conditions that may weaken the immune system, such as transplants, HIV, or sickle cell disease. Many medical conditions, such as chronic lung disease, or chronic heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, become more common as we age. Don't take chances with your health – ask your doctor, pharmacist or nurse about pneumococcal vaccines if you are 65 or older, or if you have one or more of the risk factors listed above. To learn more about your options, see the Vaccine Options Table.

Pneumonia shots (vaccines) are not just for children; they are also recommended for some adults.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), a committee of the Public Health Agency of Canada, makes the following recommendations for optimal protection in adults:

•  Adults 65 and over (who have not been previously vaccinated) who are part of routine immunization programs should receive PNEUMOVAX® 23.

•  On an individual basis, for adults 65 and over (who have not been previously vaccinated), if immunization with PREVNAR® 13 is being considered, PREVNAR® 13 is given first, followed by PNEUMOVAX® 23. If you have already received PNEUMOVAX® 23 and your doctor wants you to also receive PREVNAR® 13, the dose of PREVNAR® 13 is given one year after PNEUMOVAX® 23

To learn more about which vaccines may be suitable and the timing of when you receive each vaccine, speak to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse. See the Vaccine Options Table to learn more about dosing and how each vaccine is used.





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