Influenza and pneumococcal immunization

Everyone plays a role in infection prevention—patients, families, and healthcare personnel—in and out of healthcare facilities.

So do your part! Wherever you are, there is something you can do to stay safe from infections.

Two things that you can do for yourself and your loved ones are to receive an influenza (flu) vaccine annually and a pneumonia immunization at the appropriate time according to your age and health history. By doing so, you not only protect yourself, but you protect others (e.g., cancer patients, people with suppressed immune systems) who are vulnerable to severe illness or even death if they get one of these viruses.

Influenza immunization

Flu activity usually peaks in the U.S. in January or February. However, seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue to occur as late as May. Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza virus. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications. Even healthy people can get sick enough to miss work or school for a significant amount of time or even be hospitalized. Learn the flu basics.

  • Routine annual influenza vaccination of everyone ages 6 months and older is recommended.
  • This year (2013-14), U.S. trivalent influenza vaccines will protect against the three main strains of flu that research indicates will cause the most illness – two influenza A viruses and an influenza B virus. Quadrivalent vaccines will include protection against an additional influenza B virus.
  • Selection of a particular vaccine is generally based on health history, age, and availability. Not all healthcare providers will have every vaccine.

Timing of vaccination

The timing of flu cannot be predicated and can vary from season to season. In general, healthcare providers begin offering vaccination soon after vaccine becomes available, and if possible, by October.

  • All children ages 6 months to 8 years who are recommended for 2 doses (Figure 1) should receive their first dose as soon as possible after vaccine becomes available; these children should receive the second dose, if indicated, ≥4 weeks later.

Influenza vaccination for pregnant women

  • Women who are or will be pregnant during influenza season should receive inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV). Live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV—the nasal spray flu vaccine) is not recommended for use during pregnancy.
  • Postpartum women can receive either LAIV or IIV.
  • Pregnant and postpartum women do not need to avoid contact with persons recently vaccinated with LAIV.


  • Get a flu shot.
  • Be certain your loved ones are vaccinated.
  • Don’t hold out for the quadrivalent vaccine…it’s better to be vaccinated than to wait!

Additional resources
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—Seasonal influenza: Flu basics
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—Seasonal Influenze Q&A
Mayo Clinic—Influenza Information
Kids Health—Influenza Information
National Foundation for Infectious Diseases—About vaccines 

Pneumonia immunization

Pneumococcal disease is an infection caused by Streptococcus pneumonia bacteria, sometimes referred to as pneumococcus. Pneumococcus can cause many types of illnesses, including pneumonia, blood infections, ear infections, and meningitis. There are vaccines to prevent pneumococcal disease in children and adults.

The best way to prevent pneumococcal disease is by getting vaccinated. The pneumococcal vaccine is a shot that helps protect against some of the more than 90 types of pneumococcal bacteria.

The vaccine for children, called pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13), protects against the 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria that cause most of the severe illness in children. The vaccine can also help prevent some ear infections. PCV13 protects children by preparing their bodies to fight the bacteria. Almost all children (about 9 children out of 10) who get PCV13 will be protected from the 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria in the vaccine. PCV13 is also recommended to help prevent pneumococcal disease in adults with certain medical conditions.

The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23) protects against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria. It is recommended for all adults 65 years and older and for anyone who is 2 years and older at high risk for disease, including those:

  • With chronic illnesses (lung, heart, liver, or kidney disease; asthma; diabetes; or alcoholism)
  • With conditions that weaken the immune system (HIV/AIDS, cancer, or damaged/absent spleen)
  • Living in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities
  • With cochlear implants or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaks (escape of the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord)
  • Who smoke cigarettes

Revaccination with PPSV23

  • One-time revaccination 5 years after the first dose is recommended for anyone ages 19 to 64 with chronic renal failure or nephrotic syndrome; functional or anatomic asplenia (e.g., sickle cell disease or splenectomy); and for persons with immunocompromising conditions.
  • Individuals who received 1 or 2 doses of PPSV23 before age 65 for any indication should receive another dose of the vaccine at age 65 or later if at least 5 years have passed since their previous dose.
  • No further doses are needed for those vaccinated with PPSV23 at or after age 65.


  • Get your pneumonia immunization based on health history and age.
  • Get revaccinated, if necessary.
  • It is also important to get an influenza vaccine every year because having the flu increases your chances of getting pneumococcal disease.

Additional resources
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—Pneumococcal Disease
WebMD—Pneumococcal Vaccine Information
Immunization Action Coalition—Pneumococcal vaccines