The best way to prevent pneumococcal disease is by getting vaccinated. The pneumococcal vaccine is a shot that helps protect against some of the more than 90 types of pneumococcal bacteria.
The vaccine for children, called pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13 or Prevnar 13®), protects against the 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria that cause most of the severe illness in children. The vaccine can also help prevent some ear infections. PCV13 protects children by preparing their bodies to fight the bacteria. Almost all children (about 9 children out of 10) who get PCV13 will be protected from the 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria in the vaccine. PCV13 is also recommended to help prevent pneumococcal disease in adults with certain medical conditions.
The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23 or Pneumovax 23®) protects against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria. It is recommended for all adults 65 years and older and for anyone who is 2 years and older at high risk for disease. PPSV23 is also recommended for adults 19 through 64 years of age who smoke cigarettes or who have asthma.
It is also important to get an influenza vaccine every year because having the flu increases your chances of getting pneumococcal disease.
Since it’s not common for people to develop an infection after being exposed to someone with a pneumococcal infection, prophylactic (preventative) antibiotics are not recommended for contacts of patients with such infections.
Because there are more than 90 known pneumococcal serotypes (strains or types) that cause disease, a previous pneumococcal infection will not protect you from future infection. Therefore, pneumococcal vaccines are still recommended for children and adults who have had pneumococcal disease in the past.
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