Pneumococcal vaccine for risk groups
Everyone over 65 years of age, or who has a disease or condition that puts them at higher risk of a severe pneumococcal disease course, should take the pneumococcal vaccine.
Pneumococcus is a bacterium that can cause pneumonia, ear infections or sinusitis, but also more serious illness such as blood poisoning (sepsis) or meningitis. Even with antibiotic treatment, severe disease has a high mortality, approximately 20 per cent. Severe pneumococcal disease course particularly affects the youngest and oldest age groups, as well as those who are at risk due to other diseases.
There are vaccines against pneumococcal disease, and many cases of severe pneumococcal disease could be avoided in Norway every year if more people were vaccinated. The NIPH recommends vaccination for everyone aged 65 or over, and for others with conditions that increase their risk of pneumococcal disease.
What are pneumococci?
Pneumococcal bacteria are found naturally in the nose and throat, especially among healthy children. Transmission occurs through close droplet transmission (such as coughing and sneezing) from person to person. Most people do not become ill, but some are a greater risk of a severe pneumococcal disease course if they are infected. There are many strains of pneumococcal bacteria, and some cause disease more often than others.
Who should be vaccinated?
Diseases that cause immunodeficiency can significantly increase the risk of a severe pneumococcal disease course. Pneumococcal vaccination is therefore recommended for everyone with these diseases. Other diseases and conditions may give an increased risk of a severe pneumococcal disease course. A doctor can assess their individual need for vaccination for people in these groups. Being elderly is a risk factor for a severe pneumococcal disease course.
Pneumococcal vaccine is recommended for:
- Everyone over the age of 65.
- People with diseases that cause immunodeficiency or who use medicines that weaken the immune system. The vaccine is also recommended for several chronic conditions and some diseases that increase the risk of pneumococcal disease. Consult your doctor if you have a condition that puts you at increased risk of a severe pneumococcal disease course.
- People with an increased risk of infection because of their job, such as laboratory personnel and people exposed to welding fumes.
Most people with a severe pneumococcal disease course are admitted to hospital, often into intensive care, and the mortality rate is high. The most effective preventive measure is vaccination.
Two different pneumococcal vaccines are available for use in adults. They work in different ways and protect against a different number of pneumococcal bacteria strains.
Pneumovax is a polysaccharide vaccine that protects against the 23 most common strains of pneumococcal bacteria. These strains are responsible for about 66 per cent of cases of severe pneumococcal disease among people 65 years of age or older.
Conjugated pneumococcal vaccines are also available, which protect against 13 (Prevenar13), 15 (Vaxneuvance) and 20 (Apexxnar) strains of the pneumococcal bacteria, respectively. Prevenar 13 has been used in Norway for many years, while the other two are new and have been developed to provide wider coverage. These cover 20 per cent, 31 per cent and 52 per cent of disease cases among people aged 65 or older, respectively.
Pneumovax (23-valent vaccine) is recommended for all adults and people in risk groups who will be vaccinated against pneumococcal disease because it protects against several of the pneumococcal types found in Norway today. For some people with a particularly high risk of severe pneumococcal disease, a conjugate vaccine is recommended together with a polysaccharide vaccine to provide better immunity. If both vaccines are given, it is important to take them in the right order. Your doctor can give advice about this. Both vaccine types protect well against severe pneumococcal disease course. The vaccines also protect against pneumonia, although the protection against pneumonia is somewhat lower than for severe pneumococcal disease course.
It takes 10-14 days from when the vaccine is given until you can expect an effect. The effect of the vaccine decreases over time. Pneumococcal vaccine should be given every 6 years.
Can I take the pneumococcal vaccine with influenza and COVID-19 vaccines?
The pneumococcal and influenza vaccines can be given at the same time, but in different arms. A week should elapse between having the COVID-19 vaccine and the pneumococcal vaccine.
Side effects of pneumococcal vaccine
Like all medicines, vaccines may cause side effects. The most common are temporary redness and swelling at the injection site, as well as fever. Allergic reactions can occur but is very rare.
There is no evidence to suggest that pneumococcal vaccine is the cause of chronic or severe disease or increases the risk. Symptoms that arise after vaccination are not necessarily due to the vaccine but may be signs of a disease that needs medical attention. Consult your doctor if you are concerned.
How much does the vaccine cost?
The price of the vaccine at the pharmacy is approximately 350 Norwegian kroner. In addition, there may be a consultation fee, which varies.
Where to get the vaccine
Consult your family doctor to assess whether you belong to the target group for vaccination, and where you can get the vaccine locally. People in certain risk groups may be able to get the vaccine on a subsidised prescription (blåresept).
Which vaccines have I had?
This vaccination is registered in the Norwegian Immunisation Registry SYSVAK. If you want to know which vaccines are registered for you in Norway you can find an overview on helsenorge.no: