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Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV) (23 serotypes)

Pneumococcal infection is caused by pneumococcal bacteria (Streptococcus pneumoniae) and can cause serious illnesses, such as sepsis and meningitis.

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Pneumococcal infection is caused by pneumococcal bacteria (Streptococcus pneumoniae) and can cause serious illnesses, such as sepsis and meningitis.

Some individuals carry pneumococcal bacteria in the back of their nose and throat and can pass them around by coughing, sneezing, and close contact. Usually, this doesn’t result in serious illness, but it can lead to pneumococcal infection, including pneumococcal meningitis.

People aged 65 or over and individuals with certain health conditions have a higher chance of becoming unwell with pneumococcal infection. They are more likely to suffer serious long-term health problems from pneumococcal infection and can even die. These groups are offered a pneumococcal vaccination on the NHS. It's a safe vaccine that can help prevent some of the serious types of pneumococcal infections.

NHS 111 Wales - Why the pneumococcal vaccine is needed (external site).


Eligibility for the vaccine

There are two different types of pneumococcal vaccine. This page covers the Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine (PPV).

Routine immunisation with PPV

Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine (PPV) is routinely offered to all adults aged 65 years of age and over.

Immunisations for those at risk

This vaccine may also be required by some people aged two years to 64 years with underlying medical conditions which make them more prone to developing pneumococcal disease:

  • Asplenia or splenic dysfunction
  • Chronic heart disease
  • Chronic respiratory disease (Asthma is not an indication unless so severe as to require continuous or frequently repeated use of systemic steroids)
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic liver disease
  • Diabetes mellitus that requires medication
  • Immunosuppression
  • Conditions where leakage of CSF can occur
  • Individuals with cochlear implants
  • Those at occupational risk due to metal fumes e.g. Welders

This list is not exhaustive. Talk to your doctor or nurse if you think you or your child requires the vaccine.

Pneumococcal conjugated vaccine (PCV)

The PCV vaccine is offered to all children under two years old as part of the NHS routine childhood vaccination programme. This vaccine may also be required by some individuals with underlying medical conditions. Information about the Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) Pneumococcal (13 serotypes) vaccine.


About the PPV vaccine

The pneumococcal vaccine provides some protection against one of the most common causes of meningitis, and against other conditions such as severe ear infections and pneumonia caused by pneumococcal bacteria. This vaccine doesn't protect against meningitis caused by other bacteria or viruses.

Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV) does not prevent pneumonia, but there is good evidence that it is moderately effective (50-70%) in preventing invasive pneumococcal disease.

The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine is routinely used. The vaccine is inactivated. It will normally be given as an injection into the muscle of the upper arm.

You can learn more about this vaccine by reading the patient leaflet: Pneumovax23.

Where and when

If you're eligible, you can get the vaccine at any time of year. The next time you speak to a healthcare professional ask them about the pneumococcal vaccine.

How many doses

The pneumococcal vaccine used for adults in Wales is the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV, Pneumovax23.) Most people need only one dose of PPV.

Individuals with a long-term health conditions including some children will either need a one-off single dose or one dose every 5 years, depending on their underlying health condition/treatment.  

Side effects of the PPV vaccine

Like most vaccines, the side effects of PPV vaccine (external site) are usually mild. Some people may get some:

  • Swelling and soreness around the site of injection for a few days
  • Slight temperature

Other reactions are uncommon or rare. For more information on common, uncommon and rare side effects see:

If you are concerned about symptoms call NHS 111 Wales (external site). Calls to NHS 111 Wales are free from landlines and mobile phones.

You can report suspected side effects of vaccines and medicines through the Yellow Card scheme. You can do this online at or by calling the Yellow Card scheme hotline on 0800 731 6789 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm).  


Information for the public