Pneumococcal Disease

Pneumococcal disease is an infection caused by the pneumococcus bacteria.

When the bacteria infects the lungs, it can cause pneumonia. People with pneumonia often have fever, chills, cough, pain with breathing, and are short of breath. Pneumonia can be life-threatening if not treated properly. Pneumococcus can spread to other parts of your body as well, such as the blood and brain. Because these places are normally bacteria-free, an infection in these areas is very serious and can lead to meningitis, bacteremia (bloodstream infection), brain damage, and even death.

Am I at risk?

The pneumococcus bacteria is spread from person-to-person through coughing or sneezing. Many healthy people, particularly young children, carry the bacteria in their nose and throat without it causing them any problems, but can spread the bacteria to others.

There are many people who are at higher risk of pneumococcal disease when they come into contact with the bacteria, especially those who are over 65, have weakened immune systems and have certain medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and chronic lung diseases (asthma and COPD). Those living with these conditions are more likely to get an infection, or fall seriously ill if they do become infected. Additionally, pneumococcal disease often worsens existing medical conditions.

Lifestyle habits such as smoking can also increase your risk of getting a pneumococcal disease.

Protecting myself

Getting vaccinated is one of the best ways to protect yourself against pneumococcal disease. Vaccination strengthens the immune system against the bacteria so you are less likely to become infected, and makes the infection less severe if you are. There are 2 vaccines available and, depending on your individual circumstances, you may need one or both. People who are at higher risk will likely need both, given at different times.

We know that with your busy life it can be hard to find the time for vaccination. We can help. Our pharmacists undergo injection training to provide a convenient vaccination experience - no appointment needed.*

If you're a smoker, talk to your doctor or pharmacists about smoking cessation options. Quitting smoking will help protect you against pneumococcal disease. It is also important for you to make sure your medical conditions are under control, particularly if you have asthma, COPD, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease or liver disease. Because the bacteria is spread by contact with infected secretions, avoid face-to-face contact with infected individuals and practise good hand hygiene. Getting the annual flu shot is also recommended.

* Applicable vaccines and costs vary by province. Prescription may be required. Professional fees may apply.


  1. Musher, D. Pneumococcal vaccination in adults. UptoDate. Accessed April 4, 2018.
  2. Marrie, T., et al. Patient education: Pneumonia in adults (Beyond the Basics). Accessed April 4, 2018.
  3. Musher, D. Patient education: Pneumonia prevention in adults (Beyond the Basics). Accessed April 4, 2018.
  4. Types of Infection. CDC. Accessed April 5, 2018
  5. Donker, E. Understanding the pneumococcus: transmission and evolution. Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2013; 3: 7. Published online 2013 Mar 7. doi: 3389/fcimb.2013.00007
  6. Update on the use of 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PNEU-C-13) in addition to 23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PNEU-P-23) in immunocompetent adults 65 years of age and older – Interim Recommendation. An Advisory Committee Statement (ACS) National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI). Accessed April 5, 2018.