What is pneumococcal disease?

Pneumococcal is a bacterial disease that may lead to three serious infections:

  • Meningitis (brain infection)
  • Bacteremia (bloodstream infection)
  • Pneumonia (lung infection)

Worldwide, pneumococcal disease is a major cause of morbidity and mortality. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that almost 500,000 deaths among children aged less than 5 years are attributable to pneumococcal disease each year. In Canada, Invasive Pneumococcal Disease (IPD) is most common among the very young and adults over 65 years of age.[1]

Fortunately, there are vaccines to help prevent pneumonia among at-risk groups that significantly reduce pneumonia-related hospitalizations and costs along with broader, negative socio-economic impacts.[2]

How do I know if I’m at risk of getting pneumococcal disease?

Adults at risk of pneumococcal disease infection include those with chronic underlying conditions like asthma. If you live with asthma, it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider about getting immunized, because vaccination is the most effective prevention against pneumococcal disease. Pneumococcal vaccination is part of routine immunization schedules in Canada. There are different vaccines available and recommended, so ask your healthcare provider about the immunization schedule in your province or territory.

If you’re over 65 years of age and living with asthma, it’s even more important to be immunized against pneumococcal disease. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends that for older adults, the pneumococcal vaccine should be offered in routine immunization programs for all adults age 65 years and older for the prevention of Invasive Pneumococcal Disease.[3]

As we get older, our immune system can get weaker. This puts us at greater risk for certain diseases. Vaccine-preventable diseases like pneumococcal disease are more common with age.[4]

How could I get pneumococcal disease?

Pneumococcal disease is more common during the winter and spring months in Canada. It can spread from person-to person by close contact like kissing, coughing or sneezing. It can also be spread through contact with shared items, like cigarettes, toys, and musical instruments.

Did you know? Your risk of pneumococcal infection increases if you get the flu. It’s a good idea to get BOTH your flu shot and the pneumococcal vaccine.

Is the pneumococcal vaccine safe?

Yes. Pneumococcal vaccines are safe and effective. Canadian laws and regulations set high standards for vaccine, development, safety, and testing. Canada also has strong health systems to oversee and monitor vaccines as they arrive on the market and are available to the public.

Does the vaccine have side effects?

There may be redness, swelling and soreness at the injection site following pneumococcal immunization.[5] Speak to your healthcare provider to learn more.


Keeping your immunizations up to date will protect you and your family and reduce the spread of diseases like pneumococcal in your community.


[1] https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/healthy-living/canadian-immunization-guide-part-4-active-vaccines/page-16-pneumococcal-vaccine.html#fn-tb1-1-0-rf

[2] https://www.vaccines4life.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Pneumococcal-Pneumonia-Joint-Statement_Final.pdf

[3] https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/healthy-living/update-on-the-use-of-pneumococcal-vaccines-in-adult.html#a1

[4] https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/vaccination-adults.html

[5] https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/healthy-living/canadian-immunization-guide-part-4-active-vaccines/page-16-pneumococcal-vaccine.html#a1