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Pneumococcal diseases are caused by bacteria from the streptococcus family. They are common around the world and are transmitted from person to person. Depending on the region of the world and the age, different pneumococcal strains are responsible for different diseases with sometimes life-threatening courses. For example, they cause the majority of all bacterial pneumonias.
Good to know
From the age of 60, the Standing Commission on Vaccination (STIKO) recommends that all adults be vaccinated against pneumococcus, depending on their health status, if necessary. Should be refreshed after six years. Vaccination reduces the risk of getting sick at all or suffering severe complications.
Pneumococci are transmitted like an influenza infection by droplet infection – for example when coughing or sneezing. Bacteria are found in the nasopharynx of many people without them becoming ill from it. Therefore, they can also be passed on by healthy people.
Pneumococcus: course of the disease
Why pneumococci cause sudden illness in some people and not in others is not well understood. Healthy people can also be affected. However, this happens more easily when the body’s defenses are weakened – for example, after a viral illness or during chronic illnesses. Infants and toddlers as well as older people are more likely to contract pneumococcal disease. Because with increasing age, the body’s defenses weaken and chronic diseases increase.
Pneumococci can cause various diseases – including sinusitis, middle ear infection, meningitis or blood poisoning (sepsis). In addition, they are responsible for 20 to 50 percent of all pneumonia caused by bacteria in older adults. Some of these diseases can be life-threatening. In severe cases, about one in ten of those infected dies as a result of the pneumococcal infection. People with weakened immune systems are particularly at risk.
Pneumococcal diseases can be treated with antibiotics. However, resistance is increasing, making the drugs less effective. Protection through vaccination is therefore becoming increasingly important.
The Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) recommends vaccination against pneumococci for all adults over the age of 60. A pneumococcal vaccine that protects against 23 different types of pneumococci (PPSV23) should be used for this purpose.
Due to the limited duration of the vaccination protection against pneumococci, the STIKO considers the booster with a minimum interval of 6 years from a medical point of view actually sensible for all adults from the age of 60 years onwards. Nevertheless, a general booster is not currently recommended for this age group because the vaccine is not currently licensed for this purpose. The repeat vaccination of healthy people over 60 years of age should therefore be carried out by the physician or. be assessed by the physician.
In addition, vaccination against pneumococcus is recommended to all persons with increased health risk due to certain pre-existing conditions or with occupational risk. This includes people
- Who have a weakened immune system – whether due to congenital immune system defects, absent or non-functioning spleen, HIV infection, bone marrow or organ transplantation, or other reasons.
- Who suffer from chronic diseases such as diabetes, chronic diseases of the heart or respiratory organs, as well as liver or kidney diseases or diseases of the nervous system.
- Who have an increased risk of meningitis – z. B. caused by a cochlear implant or a cerebrospinal fluid fistula.
- who have an increased risk due to their occupation (welding and cutting of metals, risk due to inhalation of metal smoke).
For these risk groups a repetition of the vaccination is recommended after a period of at least six years. In the case of the above-mentioned pre-existing conditions, vaccination with an additional vaccine against pneumococci is sometimes also recommended. Please talk to your doctor or. your doctor about the order of the vaccinations and the intervals between the vaccination dates.
Also for children from the completed second month of life until the age of 2 years. The Standing Commission on Vaccination (STIKO) at the Robert Koch Institute recommends vaccination against pneumococci from the age of 65. More information about suitable vaccination dates and vaccines for children can be found in the section: "Vaccination recommendations for children".
The so-called polysaccharide vaccine for adults gives protection against 23 of the most important pneumococcal types. This is a vaccine made from the sugars of the bacterial envelope.
In addition, a so-called conjugate vaccine, which protects against 13 common pneumococcal types, has also been approved for some time now.
Possible vaccination reactions and side effects
Often, the stimulation of the body’s own defenses causes redness or swelling at the injection site, which can also hurt. General symptoms such as fever, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint pain may also occur in the first three days after vaccination. Such vaccination reactions usually subside after one to three days.
Severe side effects are rare. An allergic reaction (z. B. Hives) is possible. Very rarely, the number of blood platelets (responsible for blood clotting) may temporarily decrease.