Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that can cause moderate to severe illness. Despite advances in modern medicine, it still accounts for approximately 5% of deaths in Ireland with the people most at-risk being older people and very young children. Common symptoms of pneumonia include a persistent cough, fever and difficulty breathing.

Pneumonia can be caused by a variety of different microorganisms, by breathing in corrosive chemicals or by inhalation of toxic gases. Transmission usually requires close contact and person-to person transmission usually by droplet infection. The incubation period can vary but can be as short as 1-3 days.

What is the Pneumococcal Vaccine and how does it work?

  • A common cause of bacterial pneumonia is Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus).
  • Pneumococcal infections can cause a range of illness from mild ear and sinus infections to more severe pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis.
  • Children under 2 years old and adults 65 years or older are among those most at risk of the disease.
  • There are two types of pneumococcal vaccine. Pneumovax® is the type administered by your pharmacist and they can advise you if the vaccine is appropriate for you or they might refer you to your GP if necessary.
  • The pharmacy vaccine protects against 23 types of pneumococcal disease in children and adults.
  • The Pneumococcal Vaccine encourages your body to produce antibodies against pneumococcal bacteria. Antibodies are proteins produced by the body to prevent disease. They protect you from becoming ill, if you get an infection.

How do I avail of the Pneumococcal Vaccine?

To avail of a vaccination service, simply phone or call in to your nearest Allcare pharmacy and a member of the pharmacy team will check your eligibility and arrange an appointment for a time that is convenient for you.

When should I get the vaccination?

There’s no such thing as pneumonia season, like you would have a Flu season. If you and/or your health professional decide that you need to have a pneumococcal vaccine, you can receive it at any time of the year. If it’s flu season, you can even get a pneumococcal vaccine at the same time that you get your flu vaccine as long as you receive each shot in a different arm.

Who should get the Pneumococcal Vaccine?

Anyone over the age of 18 with certain risk factors is eligible to receive the pneumococcal vaccine at Allcare Pharmacy. Your pharmacist is happy to advise you if the vaccine is appropriate for you.

Pneumococcal vaccination is advised for:

  • Everybody aged 65 years and over
  • Adults aged 18 years and over with:
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Chronic heart, respiratory, renal or liver disease
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Disorders of the immune system including cancer, HIV, and transplant patients
  • Smokers
  • Those with alcohol dependence**
  • Those who are exposed to fumes through their work e.g. welders

What to expect from my pneumococcal vaccination

You shouldn’t have the vaccine if you have had a history of severe allergic reaction to a previous dose or to any part of the vaccine.

Are there any side effects of the pneumococcal vaccine?

Like most vaccines, the pneumococcal vaccine can sometimes cause mild side effects, including:

  • Mild fever
  • Redness, hardness, numbness and swelling at injection site
  • Lethargy
  • Mild flu-like symptoms.
  • In very rare occasions, a severe allergic reaction can occur. Pharmacists are fully trained to deal with this scenario. This is why all patients are requested to remain in-store for 15 minutes after your vaccination, in case you have any immediate side effects.

What can I expect once I have had the vaccine?

Most adults will be protected by the vaccine after 3 weeks. Being vaccinated is likely to protect you against pneumonia. However, vaccinations do not offer 100% protection against all types of pneumonia. The pneumococcal vaccine is an inactivated or “killed” vaccine and does not contain any live organisms. It cannot cause the disease it protects against.