Pneumococcal Disease: What You Should Know

Adults with COPD disease at greater risk for contracting the potentially deadly disease.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month! Are you current on your shots? Despite recent headlines about the benefits of vaccinations at fighting disease, many adults still aren’t up to date.

National Immunizations Month Pneumococcal Disease For adults living with a chronic disease like COPD, the risks of being under-vaccinated are even greater. As many as one-third of adults living with a chronic illness are at greater risk of contracting the potentially deadly pneumococcal disease. Worse, if a person living with COPD contracts pneumococcal disease, the long term potential for worsening of their disease is elevated.

So what is pneumococcal disease? Pneumococcal disease is an infection caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacterium, also known as pneumococcus. Infection can result in pneumonia, infection of the blood, middle-ear infection, or bacterial meningitis. The bacterium spreads from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. People may become infected if someone with the disease coughs or sneezes in close proximity.

That is why it is critical for those living with COPD to be aware of the risks associated with pneumococcal disease and do everything they can to prevent contracting it—most importantly by being vaccinated.

It is recommended that adults age 65+ are vaccinated against pneumococcal disease, but adults aged 19-64 with risk factors such as COPD, heart disease, asthma, diabetes and other chronic conditions are at a higher risk of contracting the disease.

Those living with a second chronic condition increase their risk contracting pneumococcal disease even further. Doctors need to know of all your medical conditions.

Vaccines are the best tool at preventing pneumococcal disease and adults with chronic conditions should be vaccinated to protect their short and long term health.

Like the pneumococcal vaccine, recommendations for other vaccines may also need to be tailored to each individual person’s situation. So adults should make sure to discuss vaccines with their doctor or other healthcare professional. You can get information on which vaccines you might need by taking the adult quiz at


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  • My partner has had a one=off pneumonia injection (which lasts for ever he was told). Is this the same as pneumoccal disease?.
  • There are 2 different pneumonia vaccines out there--I've had both. One is the standard pneumavax and the other is the Prevnar13. CDC says folks are only required to have one of two of these shots in a lifetime.

    My National Jewish lung specialist recommends getting a pneumonia shot every 5 years for those of us with COPD because we don't keep high levels of immunities from the vaccines as long as "normal" people with no lung disease. I've been getting the pneumavax every 5 years since 2000 when I was diagnosed with COPD, except once I got the Prevnar 13 instead.
    • I would definitely follow the advice of you lung specialist.
  • I'm 50 with COPD And my Doctor says I do not need the vaccine. Just flu?
    • I think I'd get a second opinion or ask why he is recommending that you not have the pneumonia vaccine, since it is recommended for people 19-64 with COPD.
    • I agree with Karen. It's not recommended for healthy people until over 65, but COPD changes everything. Good luck!