It’s important to check if you need a pneumococcal vaccination. Only around 50% of older aged Australians and 33% of specific at-risk groups of adults and adolescents are getting vaccinated.

This is worrying because pneumococcal disease usually requires hospitalisation and can be life-threatening. Caused by a bacterium called pneumococcus, it can lead to: meningitis (brain covering infection), septicaemia (blood poisoning) and the most common condition, pneumonia (lung infection).

Vaccination recommendations

Vaccination is highly effective at preventing pneumococcal disease. It’s recommended for all people aged 65 and over, and if you’re a smoker (regardless of age). For others it’s recommended if:

You’re 10–64 years old with a chronic illness such as:

  • heart, kidney or lung disease, diabetes, alcohol-related problems
  • abnormal spleen
  • weakened immunity e.g HIV infection, organ transplantation, certain cancers
  • cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) leak

You’re Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander:

    • Aged 50 and over
    • Aged 15-49 at-risk of pneumococcal disease

How is the vaccination done?

It involves receiving at least a first injection. This is associated with infrequent and mild, short lasting side effects. Autumn is a good time because pneumococcal disease is most common in winter and spring.

A second injection may be needed for ongoing protection after five years. It was temporarily suspended in 2011, but the Australian government has now found it’s safe enough to be recommenced and is recommended if:

    • You’re aged 10 and over, with a chronic illness such as:

      • heart, kidney or lung disease, diabetes, alcohol-related problems
      • abnormal spleen
      • weakened immunity e.g. HIV infection, organ transplantation, certain cancers
      • cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) leak

You’re a smoker You’re Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander:

    • Aged 50 and over
    • Aged 15-49 at-risk of pneumococcal disease

For more information: visit www.pneumorisk.com.au, immunise.health.gov.au or Phone 1800 671811

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