Tightly cropped image of a nurse giving a person a pneumonia shot.

Q: “Should children and adults with a history of asthma, allergies or respiratory infections get the pneumonia vaccination?” 

Martha White, MD: Yes. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) advises all people with asthma should get a pneumonia vaccination. I typically also recommend it for patients with recurrent sinusitis or lung infections. People with allergies often fall into these high-risk groups.

CDC also recommends that all people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and anyone exposed to tobacco smoke receive the pneumonia vaccine.

Streptococcus pneumonia (pneumococcus) is a leading cause of serious illness, including otitis media (ear infections), meningitis and bacteremia (bacteria in the blood stream) in children and adults. Those at highest risk of serious complications include children under 2 years, adults 65 and over, and people at any age with chronic illness and immune deficiencies.

Pneumonia immunization programs have led to a substantial reduction in infection caused by strains of pneumococcal bacteria, including antibiotic-resistant strains. The benefits have extended to the general population through reduced transmission of infection to unvaccinated people.

There are two types of pneumonia vaccines recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine 13 (PCV13) for children younger than 5 years old, adults 65 years or older, and people 6 years or older with certain risk factors; and pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23) for adults 65 years or older and high-risk people 2 through 64 years old. Discuss the pneumonia vaccine with your doctor, as some groups should receive both shots.

Head photo of Dr. WhiteMartha White, MD, FACAAI, is a board-certified allergist at the Institute of Asthma and Allergy in Wheaton, Md., board emeritus with Allergy & Asthma Network’s Board of Directors, and a fellow of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI).