Pneumococcal disease

Pneumococcal disease Immunisation

Pneumococcal disease refers to a number of clinical illnesses caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacterium (also called pneumococcus), an organism which is sometimes carried in the upper respiratory tracts of healthy people. The disease is spread from person-to-person by direct contact with infected respiratory secretions through coughing and sneezing or touching contaminated surfaces.

What is Pneumococcal disease?

While there are more than 90 types of pneumococcus bacteria, only a small number are responsible for serious, or invasive disease. (Invasive infections are those where the bacteria attack parts of the body that are normally free from microorganisms). Depending on the site of infection, this can lead to meningitis, pneumonia, blood infections or otitis media. Pneumococcal pneumonia is the most common community-acquired pneumonia.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms will reflect where the infection is located: for pneumonia, they could be fever, chills, cough, rapid or difficulty in breathing and chest pain; in meningitis, stiff neck, fever, photophobia, confusion and headaches. (Caveat: Older adults with pneumococcal pneumonia may experience confusion or low alertness, rather than the more common symptoms listed above.)

Where is it found?

Pneumococcal disease occurs worldwide and the bacteria that cause it vary by region and age group among other factors. While anyone can become infected and go on to develop pneumococcal disease, the risk of progressing to severe invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) is highest in young infants and adults aged >70 years. Indigenous people and Torres Strait Islanders, both children and adults, are disproportionately affected by pneumococcal disease.

Children at increased risk for pneumococcal disease include those:

  • Younger than 5 years of age
  • With certain medical conditions: sickle cell disease, congenital or acquired asplenia, HIV infection, diabetes, immune-compromising conditions, nephrotic syndrome, or chronic heart, lung, kidney, or liver disease
  • With cochlear implants or cerebrospinal fluid leaks (escape of the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord)

Adults at risk for pneumococcal disease:

  • The elderly
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders of all ages but especially those > 50 years
  • Adults with certain underlying medical conditions:
    • Chronic illnesses affecting the heart, liver, kidney, or lung (including chronic obstructive lung disease, asthma), or with diabetes or alcoholism.
    • Conditions that weaken the immune system: HIV/AIDS, cancer, or damaged/absent spleen
    • Those with Cochlear Implants
    • Smokers

Who Needs Pneumococcal Disease Vaccines?

Anyone who wants to protect themselves against pneumococcal disease can talk to their doctor about getting immunised.

Pneumococcal immunisation is recommended for:

  • Infants and children aged under 5 years
  • Non-Indigenous adults aged 70 years and over without medical risk conditions for pneumococcal disease
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged under 5 years living in Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia 
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults aged 50 years and over without medical risk conditions for pneumococcal disease
  • Infants under 12 months diagnosed with certain medical risk conditions for pneumococcal disease
  •  Anyone over 12 months of age with certain medical risk conditions for pneumococcal disease

Adults

Standard schedule with NO underlying medical risk factors:

As from July 1, 2020 the recommendation is for all healthy non-Indigenous adults at ≥70 years of age to receive a single funded dose of the 13 valent pneumococcal vaccine for adults (13vPCV). This dose is regardless of whether they have had the 23 valent polysaccharide vaccine (23vPPV) previously recommended at 65 years of age (as long as at least 12 months has elapsed between the 2 vaccine doses).

Adults at risk for pneumococcal disease:

  • The elderly
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders of all ages but especially those > 50 years
  • Adults with certain underlying medical conditions:
    • Chronic illnesses affecting the heart, liver, kidney, or lung (including chronic obstructive lung disease, asthma), or with diabetes or alcoholism.
    • Conditions that weaken the immune system: HIV/AIDS, cancer, or damaged/absent spleen
    • Those with Cochlear Implants
    • Smokers

Please note: There are differing vaccine schedules – number of doses and indications - for those adults with underlying medical risk factors. Speak to your doctor or specialist for more information.

Pregnant Women

Pneumococcal vaccines are not routinely recommended in pregancy. Pregnant women can receive 13vPCV if they have a very high risk of invasive pneumococcal disease (e.g. those who are asplenic or immunocompromised, or have cerebrospinal fluid leak).

Children

Standard schedule with NO underlying medical risk factors:

Pneumococcal vaccine for children: it is recommended they receive 13vPCV in a 3-dose schedule at 2, 4 and 12 months of age.

Children at increased risk for pneumococcal disease include those:

• Younger than 5 years of age

• With certain medical conditions: sickle cell disease, congenital or acquired asplenia HIV infection, diabetes, immune compromising conditions,       nephrotic syndrome, or chronic heart, lung, kidney, or liver disease

• With cochlear implants or cerebrospinal fluid leaks (escape of the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord)

Please note: There are differing vaccine schedules – number of doses and indications - for children with underlying medical risk factors. Speak to your doctor or specialist for more information.

Pneumococcal Vaccine Types

There are two types of vaccines used in Australia which help protect against pneumococcal disease:

  • 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (13vPCV)
  • 23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (23vPPV)

Pneumococcal vaccine cost Australia

Vaccines covered by the National Immunisation Program (NIP) are free for eligible individuals. Please see the NIP Schedule to find out which vaccines you or your family are eligible to receive.

Eligible individuals receive a free vaccine, however your health care provider may charge a consultation fee for the visit. Please check whether a fee is applied when you call to make your appointment.

If you are not eligible for a free vaccine, you will need to pay for the pneumococcal vaccine and the cost is dependent on where you buy it. Your immunisation provider can give you more information.

How often should you get pneumococcal vaccines?

Young children, the elderly, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and those with certain medical conditions have the highest incidence of invasive pneumococcal disease.

The immunisation schedule reflects the current pneumococcal vaccine recommendations:

  • Children: 13vPCV Pneumococcal vaccine is recommended in a 3-dose schedule at 2, 4 and 12 months of age.
  • Non-Indigenous adults with no medical risk factors: A single funded 13vPCV Pneumococcal vaccine dose is recommended at the age of 70 years. (This dose is regardless of whether they have had the 23 valent polysaccharide vaccine (23vPPV) previously recommended at 65 years of age - as long as at least 12 months has elapsed between the 2 vaccine doses.)

Please note: There are differing vaccine schedules – number of doses and indications - for those adults and children with underlying medical risk factors or in high risk populations. Speak to your doctor or specialist for more information.

Schedule

Standard schedule with NO underlying medical risk factors:

All children are recommended to receive 13vPCV in a 3-dose schedule at 2, 4 and 12 months of age.

As from July 1, 2020 the recommendation will be for all healthy non-Indigenous adults at ≥70 years of age to receive a single funded dose of 13vPCV. This dose is regardless of whether they have had the 23vPPV previously recommended at 65 years of age (as long as at least 12 months has elapsed between the 2 vaccine doses).

Please note: There are differing vaccine schedules – number of doses and indications - for those adults and children with underlying medical risk factors. Speak to your doctor or specialist for more information.

Level of Protection

  • the effectiveness of the 13vPCV in infants is approximately 90%
  • the effectiveness of 23vPPV against IPD in adults is approximately 80%

Possible Side Effects

  • PCV13: Redness, swelling, pain, or tenderness at site of administration, fever, loss of appetite, fussiness (irritability), feeling tired, headache, and chills.
  • PPV23: Redness or pain at the injection site, feeling tired, fever or muscle aches.

Where can I get a Pneumococcal Disease vaccination Near Me?

If you require vaccination against Pneumococcal disease, head to a Travelvax clinic near you. Staffed by health professionals who have access to state-of-the-art equipment, we can help keep you safe on your next trip.