4 things to know about the pneumococcal vaccine

The pneumococcal vaccine is important for people 65 and older – HealthPartners geriatric medicine specialist Dr. von Sternberg explains why.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about vaccines, their safety and whether they really work. One vaccine I always recommend for my older patients is the pneumococcal vaccine. I recently got mine and feel much safer as a result.

Here’s what you should know:

1. There are two types.

The two types of pneumococcal vaccines are PCV13 (Prevnar 13®) and PPSV23 (Pneumovax 23®). One dose of each is recommended if you’re 65 or older, and you should get them at least one year apart.

2. It prevents lots of serious infections.

Getting vaccinated is very effective at preventing pneumonia, an infection in the lungs that can be life-threatening. It can also protect you from meningitis, bloodstream infections and ear infections. As we age, our immune systems weaken and it’s harder to fight off infections. That’s why it’s so important that older adults get this vaccine.

3. Side effects are minimal.

I recommend this vaccine because it’s not only effective, but also very safe. The side effects are minimal and may include redness, swelling and soreness at the injection spot – just like any other shot. Less common side effects are fever, chills or muscle aches, though these usually fade quickly.

4. It’s covered by Medicare.

If you have medical coverage provided by the federal government (also known as Medicare Part B) or a Medicare plan from a private insurance company, both types of pneumococcal vaccines are covered. In fact, they are covered 100 percent when given at least 12 months apart. To learn more about how vaccines are covered by Medicare, check out this article.


I really encourage you to get your pneumococcal vaccine if you haven’t already. It’s one of the best ways to protect yourself from serious infections after age 65, and it’ll help keep you healthy and doing what you love most.

And remember, if you have a private health plan you can always call your Member Services team with any questions about coverage.

HealthPartners patients: Make an appointment to get your pneumococcal vaccine.

healthpartners-tip

Save time by asking for the pneumococcal vaccine at your next annual physical!