Pneumococcal Disease FAQ's

Vaccinations should be administered following a detailed assessment looking at age, medical conditions, and disease specific risk factors. Not all vaccines are covered by the government and come with an additional cost. You may have coverage through extended health benefits. Talk to your healthcare provider or our team about what vaccines are best for you.

The following is a guide to Frequently Asked Questions about Pneumococcal Disease and the Vaccination products available for reducing disease risk. Please consult your Healthcare Provider for specific advice pertaining to your immunization needs.

Q: What is Pneumococcal disease?

A: Pneumococcal disease is caused by certain types of bacteria that start in the nose and throat and make their way into the lungs. An infection with influenza can facilitate the movement of these pathogens into the lungs. The pneumococcal infection can then move from the lungs into the blood or cerebrospinal fluid causing severe invasive disease.

Q: What vaccines are available?

A: There are Three (3) vaccinations available for prevention of pneumococcal disease.

  1. Prevnar 13 – Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine
  2. Pneumovax 23 – Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine
  3. *New* Prevnar 20 – Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine

Q: Which vaccine is best for YOU?

A: Vaccinations should be administered following a detailed assessment looking at age, medical conditions, contacts, and other disease specific risk factors. The currently available Prevnar 20 vaccination has now replaced Prevnar 13 and is the recommended vaccination for all adults at risk for pneumococcal disease.

Prevnar 20

  • Administered once – no booster recommended at this time
  • Adults over the age of 50
  • Adults 18 to 49 with underlying medical conditions

Pneumovax 23

  • Administered every 5-10 years and 1 dose after the age of 65
  • Indicated for:
    • Adults over 2 years of age with specific medical conditions. View link to BCCDC coverage criteria. (VIEW PDF)
    • Adults over 65

Q: What are the protection features of each vaccine?

A: Prevnar 20 is a conjugate vaccine which means it provides a more “robust” immune response. It provides protection against infection in the lungs and subsequently protection against invasive disease. It also reduces “carriage” of the pathogen in the nose and throat preventing spread to others who may be at high risk. It has replaced Prevnar 13, because is covers more serotypes which can cause disease.

Pneumovax 23 is a polysaccharide which means it provides a less “robust immune response”. It does not provide sufficient protection to prevent pathogens from entering the lungs. It does, however, provide protection against more disease causing strains, and against “invasive disease”.

Q: Do I need BOTH vaccines?

A: No, Prevnar 20 provides great expanded coverage against pneumococcal disease. There is currently no need to get the Pneumovax 23 afterwards.

Q: If I have already had Prevnar 13, do I need Prevnar 20?

A: Staying up to date on your pneumococcal vaccinations is important. The Prevnar 20 vaccination not only contains 7 more disease causing serotypes but updates your protection against the most dangerous strains out there. Since the additional strains are not covered in the Prevnar 13 vaccine, they cause more serious disease leading to hospitalization and may not be responsive to antibiotics. Staying up to date with the Prevnar 20 vaccine provides you the best protection against pneumococcal disease currently available. You can receive Prevnar 20, one year after your Prevnar 13 vaccine in order to get the additional protection.

Q: I am over 50 years of age with no underlying medical conditions. Do I need vaccination against Pneumococcal Disease?

A: Even if you have no underlying medical conditions, you are still at risk of pneumococcal disease infection. In fact those over 50 account for a portion of pneumococcal disease hospitalizations in the country even when they do not have any underlying medical conditions. If you are hospitalized for a pneumococcal infection, there is a possibility that there may be a long lasting impact to your health status. Pneumococcal disease is one of the leading causes of disability. It is best not to delay immunization, as your immune response will not be as optimal if you receive the vaccination at an older age.

Q: What if I have had a vaccination against pneumonia before, and I don’t know what is was?

A: If you have received vaccinations in the past, it is best to check with your immunization provider(s) for complete records. Your records should be on the BC Health Gateway Health Gateway ( if they were administered by a pharmacy or public health unit.

It is unlikely that you have received the Prevnar 20 vaccination, which has been available since July 2022. If you have had a pneumonia vaccine in the past, you can receive Prevnar 20 for the most “up-to-date” protection if it has been at least one year from your last vaccine (either Prevnar 13 or Pneumovax 23).

Q: Will the Pneumococcal Vaccination Protect me against COVID-19?

A: While COVID-19 can spread to the lungs, causing pneumonia, it is not susceptible to antibodies produced after vaccination against pneumococcal disease. Therefore, the pneumococcal vaccination does not provide direct protection against the SARS- COV-2 Virus. However, indirect protection from other pathogens that can cause disease may reduce risk of illness and hospitalization during the pandemic. Furthermore, the SARS- COV-2 virus can “co-infect” with other pathogens such as the bacteria which can cause pneumococcal disease. Vaccinating against pneumococcal disease pathogens may reduce the impact and complications of a COVID-19 infection.

Written By: Ajit Johal RPh BSP BCPP CTH Clinical Director