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Prevention

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.

Vaccination

The vaccine for children and adults, 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 and adults. The vaccine can also help prevent some ear infections. PCV13 protects children and adults by preparing their bodies to fight the bacteria. PCV13 is also recommended to help prevent pneumococcal disease in adults 19 years or older with certain medical conditions and in all adults 65 years or older.

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.

For more information on who should get a pneumococcal vaccine, see the childhood [4 pages] and adult [3 pages] immunization schedules or talk to your doctor or nurse. Note: the adult immunization schedule is undergoing revisions and does not yet show the recommendation for all adults 65 years or older to get one dose of PCV13.

Antibiotics

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.

Previous Infection

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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